The Montgomery County Board of Education on Monday gave final approval to a policy that will create teams at each school to screen for potentially violent students and community members, bringing the state’s largest school system in compliance with Maryland’s Safe to Learn Act.
The policy, a product of the act signed into law in April 2018 following a mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead, mandates each school establish a behavior threat assessment team, including administrators, law enforcement and staff members trained to respond to mental health crises, and interact with non-English speakers and students with special needs.
As outlined in the 18-page policy, approved in a unanimous vote, school-based threat assessment teams will handle any incidents involving students, while the districtwide team will handle threats from staff or community members.
“I think this is one of the most important policies we’re adopting,” school board vice president Pat O’Neill said. “We have to plan, prepare, analyze and then at the end of the day pray that nothing, no terrible event, happens here in MCPS. We have to do everything we can to ensure our buildings are secure … so we are aware of the possibility and support our students.”
Behavioral assessment team members will each attend a two-day training about how to react to threats based on where they fall in a “pathway to violence” scale that measures a person’s threat level.
Threat levels range from low, with little intervention, to imminent threats which would require calling police and instituting a lockdown.
Early intervention programs will be established to focus on getting appropriate help for students who are at risk for violent behavior, including those who are bullied, according to the policy.
“Once again, MCPS is on the cutting edge as we deal with school safety and wellness of our students,” said Ed Clarke, director of the school system’s Department of School Safety and Security.
Last school year, county police were notified of one bomb threat made against public schools, two arson reports and 125 physical or verbal threats, according to school system data. Police were notified 49 times for weapon reports.
Annual reports on the number of behavioral threat assessments will be provided to the school board.
Additionally, the new policy has general charges, including that each student should have a “trusting relationship with at least one responsible adult,” and “all students, faculty and staff are treated with respect.”
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com