MCPS Superintendent Will Craft Recommendations for Strengthening School Safety
Resolution written after Florida school shooting asks Smith to present report by April 12
In response to the Florida school shooting, county public schools Superintendent Jack Smith will prepare recommendations for improving districtwide safety and security.
The Board of Education gave Smith the directive in a resolution this week, asking him to present his report no later than April 12. The resolution written by student board member Matt Post also touched on the importance of offering secure learning environments and applauded students for speaking up in past weeks on issues of gun violence.
Post during Monday’s meeting read messages he’d received in the past couple weeks from students who described feeling on edge when they walk into school since the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead. He also explained how the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, had shaken him personally.
“We as students are not demanding a lot here. We’re asking not to be shot,” said Post, a senior at Sherwood High School. “It’s difficult to go into a school and pay attention for eight hours a day when in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about how someone could come in with an assault rifle and kill everyone in your class.”
Last week’s walkouts by more than 1,000 students in Montgomery County public schools might not have been safe, he continued, but “kids don’t feel safe in class, either.”
Post’s resolution encouraged community members to participate in the March 24 rally in D.C. organized by survivors of the Florida school shooting.
Board member Pat O’Neill recalled that in 1999, shortly after she was elected, she attended a town hall at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda that was planned in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting. The nation was shocked again in 2012, she said, when a gunman killed 20 elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut.
“And here we are sitting today, having this same conversation,” she said.
The resolution calls on MCPS leaders to review safety and security preparedness before making recommendations to the board. Post said he’s sure the examination will cover some of the same ground as the audit conducted last year in the wake of a rape investigation at Rockville High School. However, he said the focus will be on drills, emergency protocols and the security of entryways.
For instance, schools in the county should have locked front doors during the day, so visitors must buzz in to enter, he said.
“However, I can speak from personal experience, not all high schools lock their front doors like they’re supposed to,” Post said.
He said he doesn’t the unlocked doors could be one area for discussion. During a Feb. 22 student forum on school security, other teens talked about discouraging students from opening side doors to strangers or students during the day, he said. Some students at the forum, held in Rockville at the MCPS administrative headquarters, raised the idea of installing metal detectors.
“The problem is if we view this issue as entirely the burden of the school system, we are going to get to a place where schools are just prisons,” he said.
Instead, federal lawmakers must take action to reduce violence, Post said.
Gillian Huebner, who chairs a subcommittee on school climate and safety for the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, said parents have differing opinions about the security measures that are appropriate at schools. But many are looking to students to identify solutions.
“They don’t necessarily want fortresses in their schools,” she said.
Parents have been sharing concerns about consistency in information sharing across the school system and about the safety of children in portables, she said. MCPS officials have been willing to listen and response, according to Huebner.
She said the MCCPTA has already met with MCPS leaders on school safety and is trying to organize another gathering.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at email@example.com.