School System Works on Improving Classroom Door Locks, Adding Safety Drills
MCPS releases final report on strengthening security throughout system
A 45-day action plan for improving safety and security in Montgomery County public schools calls for retrofitting classroom door locks, asking for more county funding and holding additional safety drills.
The school system has spent the past year taking stock of its safety measures and has already published an interim report on security at high schools. Now, Montgomery County Public Schools is publishing its complete findings, which cover safety issues in elementary and middle schools and address concerns that emerged following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Great Mills high schools.
“For the past six weeks, stakeholders across Montgomery County have come together in a variety of forums to discuss what more can be done, both immediately and over the long-term, to prevent a school shooting from occurring in one of our schools,” the report stated.
The report includes the action plan for the next 45 days, which will start Thursday. On the to-do list is adding door lock magnets that will enable teachers to secure their classrooms from the inside. MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinda Onijala said classrooms currently are locked from the outside.
The school system also wants to distribute classroom keys to substitute teachers, write guidelines for security in portable classrooms, conduct facility safety visits at every school and check access control systems for any needed repairs. MCPS will send the County Council a budget request for money to spend on safety projects and will review emergency protocols and school onsite emergency team procedures.
Finally, schools will go above and beyond state requirements for safety drills and make sure to practice active-shooter responses. Onijala said under state mandates, schools have to conduct at least six scenario-based drills per year, but they have freedom to choose the type of emergency response they’re practicing.
All nine action items in the plan are in progress, according to the report.
The state has also addressed student safety over the past couple months, with the Legislature recently approving a bill that would require resource officers or police coverage at every public school.
As part of Montgomery County’s review, school system staff developed a list of longer-term goals for safety and security. The priorities are: To increase accountability for school safety and promote a positive school culture, effectively deploy school security personnel, invest in more security cameras and other safety technology, restrict access to isolated areas of school buildings or properties, find ways of encouraging positive student behavior, foster prevention and early intervention programs and collaborate with law enforcement agencies.
These goals first appeared in the school system’s interim report, which came out in August. Superintendent Jack Smith announced the security review last year after two Rockville High students were accused of attacking a teen girl in a school bathroom. Prosecutors later dropped the rape charges against the teens, citing insufficient evidence, but the case drew national attention and stirred alarm about safety measures at local high schools.
The county school board is scheduled to talk about the final report during Thursday’s meeting.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.