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Penn Hills School District is creating a police force

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On today’s episode of The Confluence:

Penn Hills Superintendent says the district’s new police force will provide an extra layer of security
(0:00 - 7:11)

Penn Hills has become the most recent school district in the region to create its own police force, joining Pittsburgh Public Schools, Gateway and Quaker Valley. The district will use a $323,000 state grant to create the police force, which the board approved earlier this month.

The district already employs unarmed security officers and works with one or two Penn Hills Township police officers, along with a surveillance system to monitor school campuses. However, Penn Hills Superintendent Nancy Hines says a dedicated police force will mean no gaps in officer presence.

“All along I've had a little bit of a hesitation because the last thing I want to promote is rough handling of students, scaring students,” says Hines. “But I think we have something very good going on here in the Penn Hills community. Our active duty officers who have signed up for our positions have really set the tone that we're not here about arresting kids. We're here to protect and to serve.”

Hines says the decision to create the force did not come from any specific incidents, but rather the periodic need to increase security when addressing social media concerns.

More than half of Allegheny County youth surveyed say “little” is being done to address gun violence
(7:20 - 17:58)

A new survey from CeaseFirePA, a nonprofit advocating for gun regulations, asked 400 young people from the Greater Pittsburgh region how gun violence impacts them. More than 4 out 5 respondents say they’re concerned gun violence will impact them and their family’s health and safety.

Cierra Guest, 17, says she felt dismissed by adults in her school after the death of her sister, Jasmine Guest, in 2021.

“I had this mental breakdown. I went to the social workers, which all the students are told, ‘Go there if you need help.’ I go there and I'm told, ‘Oh, you have a therapist, you'll be okay. Why are you not okay?’” says Guest. “How do you expect us to be any better if we can't even have help from the people that are supposed to guide us and support us the most?”

Despite the experiences of Guest and other students, community activist Rev. Eleanor Williams still has hope that the results of the survey will be compelling to lawmakers.

“The youngest person that we talked [with] through this survey was five years old, and he was traumatized by the gun violence and what he's seeing on television. Scared to go outside, scared to even hear fireworks,” says Williams who helped distribute the survey to youth. “We really have to look at our policies and our lawmakers and things really have to change in order to make this work.”

Homewood residents find new value in community garden as grocery costs rise
(18:01 - 22:30)

Recent inflation and the end of many COVID-19 emergency benefits means some families are having trouble affording groceries. 90.5 WESA’s Ebonee Rice-Nguyen reports on one community garden in Homewood trying to counteract these challenges by offering residents free produce and farming programs.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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