A Message from MCPS—Ensuring Student Safety
I am writing with several updates about school safety. As we embark on the excitement of another school year, please know that the safety of our students, staff and families continues to be our first priority. The tragic school shootings across the country last school year altered the landscape of school safety, and at MCPS we have been working with our state and local partners in public safety to enhance our security infrastructure as well as our emergency preparedness. This coming school year we have several key facility and technology elements to implement:
- Upgrading existing access control systems for all school main entrances.
- New visitor management systems for all schools to screen visitors through state and national databases.
- Installation of controlled access entryways in an additional 16 schools.
- New, more comprehensive safety plans for each school as a supplement to existing emergency response plans.
- Installation of security cameras at elementary schools.
In addition, in partnership with the Montgomery County Police Department, all staff and students will be trained on new active assailant protocols. Principals received an overview of these new protocols at August training sessions, and they will receive additional training in active assailant protocols at upcoming sessions in September and October. Later this fall and throughout the remainder of the school year, all staff members will receive training on the new protocols, to be delivered by the MCPS Department of School Safety and Security and Montgomery County Police Department. Subsequent active assailant drills will be required for all schools in accordance with regulations established under the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018.
I also want to acknowledge a devastating incident that occurred right here in MCPS involving one of our own employees, Mr. Etienne Kabongo, a school bus operator. As you may be aware, Mr. Kabongo was arrested on August 5, 2018 and charged with the sexual abuse of one of his students—a student with special needs who was under his care while he was operating an MCPS school bus. What he did was abhorrent and deplorable. As a district, we must continue to do everything within our power to protect our students. In addition to the training that all employees receive in child abuse and neglect and the personal body safety lessons that are taught to students, this year we created elementary and secondary overviews of these lessons for parents to learn how this important information is presented to their children. The lessons can be found here. I encourage everyone to review them.
As another measure of security, last year we strengthened our employee screening process by implementing locally the NASTEDC clearinghouse background check, an automated service that cross references certification status in other states for certificated employees. This year we will take another step by increasing the frequency of our employee fingerprinting program and Child Protective Services background checks. Beginning in September, we will initiate a re-fingerprinting program, so that employees are fingerprinted on a regular cycle rather than only once at the time of hire. We will do the same for the CPS background check process. These regular and ongoing screening processes will be one of the first of their kinds for a school district in the state of Maryland and another layer of safety protection for our students and staff. Over the course of this year, employees selected for re-fingerprinting will be notified by our Office of Human Resources and Development. Our plan is to re-fingerprint employees on a 3 year cycle, so not everyone will be re-fingerprinted this year.
As we move forward, we will continue to implement tools and measures that put safety first. However, you are the most important resource we have for student safety, so I ask that you remain vigilant at all times and report any threats or suspicion of abuse immediately.
Thank you in advance for your support in the area of school safety. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Chief Operating Officer