MCPS To Begin Active Assailant Training This Fall in Schools

MCPS To Begin Active Assailant Training This Fall in Schools

School board president says he’s open to exploring idea of installing metal detectors

| Published:

Caroline Dwyer

Dan Schere

Montgomery County Public Schools will begin holding drills in schools this fall for dealing with active shooter situations, its chief operating officer says.

COO Andrew Zuckerman announced Thursday at the Board of Education meeting in Rockville that “active assailant training” drills will be added in all schools, although some schools are already performing the drills.

The training will be the seventh drill MCPS mandates annually across the board, Director of Schools Safety and Security Robert Hellmuth said. The drills currently performed are those for lockdowns, sheltering in place, evacuation, reverse evacuation, severe weather and “drop, cover and hold .”

In an interview, Zuckerman explained that some schools already engage in active shooter drills, under the “lockdown” category. But because of recent incidents such as the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead and the March 20 shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County that left two dead and one injured, there is a greater need for across-the-board training.

“Those tragedies fundamentally altered and reshaped the school landscape,” he said.

MCPS conducted a school safety review of its elementary, middle and high schools in 2017. That report found that there were 222 school-based security staff in 205 schools throughout MCPS, as well as 10 central office security staff and an additional seven staff members that monitor schools after-hours and on weekends and holidays. The report also noted that there are 5,500 cameras in schools, and another 800 on the inside of buses.

Prior to Zuckerman’s announcement, Katheryne Dwyer, a rising ninth-grader at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, and her sister Caroline, a rising seventh-grader at Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda, shared their concerns about gun violence during the public comment portion of the meeting. Both said active shooter training and metal detectors were needed. Caroline said in her testimony that she has had nightmares about being at a school with an active shooter.

“Dreams where my final moments are spent whispering on the phone to my family, to my mother, father, and sister, the best friend I’ll ever have, who, as a rising ninth-grader at Walt Whitman High School, faces a higher risk of this reality than I do,” Caroline said. “This is not right. Children my age and younger should not have to worry about their safety at the schools they attend nearly every day.”

The board thanked the Dwyers for their comments, and President Michael Durso said he would be open to exploring the possibility of installing metal detectors in schools.

“I’m not sure if that is the way to go, but I’d like to see what it would cost in terms of personnel,” he said.

Board member Jill Ortman-Fouse also asked for a study by MCPS of which schools were already performing active shooter training.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com.

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