Local public schools will have new security features.
Frederick, Md (KM) Nearly 43,000 students will be heading to Frederick County public schools on Tuesday, September 4th, the first day of classes for the 2018-2019 academic year. That is considered an increase compared to the previous year, according to Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban.
Also, schools will have some new security features, especially for visitors. “We are asking people to let us scan their driver’s license. If they don’t have a driver’s license, we can take another form of identification,” says Dr. Alban. “By doing that quick scan, we get an alert if it’s a registered sex offender.”
Many schools already have safety vestibules which visitors walk into when coming into a school building. They identify themselves and state their business before they’re allowed to enter the building. But Superintendent Alban says some older schools, which were constructed before concerns were raised about security following a number of school shootings across the country, don’t have these vestibules. However, plans are to retrofit these buildings with this security feature. “The buildings that we don’t have our safety vestibules on yet are those that are going to present the greatest design challenge,”: she said. “For example, with Monocacy Elementary, you’re going to have to go across a main traffic hallway for students.”
And, Dr. Alban says, other safety features are coming. :”We’re working to make sure that our radios can communicate directly with law enforcement. So that’s a piece that’s coming. We are working to include more training in active assailant drills. Again, that’s a requirement of the law that we begin to do those drills,” she says.
Under the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, passed during the last day of the recent General Assembly Session, high schools, middle schools and elementary schools are required to have a school resource officer or plans for adequate coverage by local law enforcement. The law also says school systems must have a school safety coordinator who will work as the liaison with local law enforcement and Maryland Center for School Safety. The measure also says school system must appoint a mental health services coordinator and work with local law enforcement to establish policies for responding to emergencies at each of the schools, including an active shooter.
One idea which has come up following school shootings is allowing teachers and other school employees to be armed. “I haven’t heard our school board come out in favor of that. I know our Frederick County Teachers Association is not in favor of that,:” says Dr. Alban.
Supporters of arming teachers and other school employees say it would be a deterrent to school shootings. “We have armed law enforcement officers in all of our high schools. They work collaboratively with the feeder schools in that area. It’s hard to say would that really be the deterrent because we already have deterrents in many schools,” she responds.
And having armed employees presents its own problems. “How do you secure the weapon so that you make sure that it isn’t then turned and used against you,”: she says. “So there’s really a lot that goes into that. It’s a very complicated situation. So I don’t think there are easy answers when it comes to that.”
But the superintendent says it’s still important for students, teachers and other staff to report any suspicious activity to the school administration or law enforcement. Last year, the father of Nicole Cervario informed Catoctin High School officials that she was planning a mass shooting at the school, where she planned to end her life. The school reported it to the Sheriff’s Office which began an investigation that led to charges being filed against Cervario.
Dr. Alban says a statewide hot line will be installed in the future to allow students, faculty and staff to report suspicious activity. That information would be relayed to school administrators and law enforcement.
By Kevin McManus