Tuesday, January 8, 2013

School Safety in Howard County

Last night's PTA Council of Howard County meeting featured a presentation from the Joint Task Force on School Safety. Led by Co-Chairs Ken Roey and William Ryan (HCPD Chief William McMahon couldn't attend), delegates from local school PTAs learned about the structure, purpose, and timeline for the Task Force's work.

There are roughly 60-70 members of the Task Force, and the work is divided between three sub-committees. Ken Roey, the Acting Chief of Operations and Finance for HCPSS, chairs the Physical Security and Safety Protocols sub-committee. William Ryan, the Executive Director of School Improvement and Administration, chairs the Safe and Nurturing Schools and Community sub-committee. Chief McMahon chairs the Emergency Response and Planning sub-committee. These sub-committees will meet throughout January and February, and the Task Force will deliver a report to the Superintendent and the County Executive in March. The public can participate through two community forums. (Details here.)

Mr. Roey and Mr. Ryan went through an overview of the scope of each sub-committee, then took questions from the PTA delegates. Many of the questions asked about different practices that might prevent outsiders from harming students at school in unthinkably bad ways. Some of the suggestions were armed guards, buzzer systems on front doors, ID checks, concrete barriers and annual computerized mental health screenings for all students.

The Task Force's work has just begun, and they are in the process of reviewing current procedures and facilities, listening to the community, and identifying likely threats and relative risks. It will take a measured and balanced approach to providing safe and nurturing school environments. Much of what parents want is already in place - and has been for a long time. As PTACHC President Christina Delmont-Small said after describing a recent incident in her neighborhood which put the local schools on lockdown, "Incidents happen and the structures and protocols in place are used. The reason we don't hear about them is because they are successful."

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If you cannot attend the community forums, please submit input on the issue of school safety HERE.
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