A Message From MCPS—School Safety Update
Be sure to read an update on school safety and security. It was emailed to staff and the MCPS community on Feb. 5.
Dear MCPS Community:
Now that we are midway through the school year, I’d like to update you on our continuing progress to ensure our students have a safe and welcoming environment to learn. As we have previously shared, while our core purpose as a school system is preparing all students to thrive in their futures, we know this cannot be achieved if students don’t feel safe and welcomed in our schools.
The safety of students and staff is not a one-time “initiative,” but rather an ongoing effort under constant assessment, refinement and improvement. You can access a wealth of information about MCPS safety on our website. We invite you to bookmark and revisit this page often to get the latest on all we are doing to keep MCPS students safe.
All of these enhancements, totaling more than $8 million, are critical to strengthening school safety and emergency preparedness. Ultimately, while student achievement is our core mission, student and staff safety must be our top priority. We take this responsibility very seriously and I want you to know of the many initiatives we have under way to continue to promote and enhance school safety and security.
Thank you for everything you do to help us support safety and security in our MCPS community.
Montgomery County Public Schools
Here are some highlights:
Welcoming Ed Clarke, Director, Department of School Safety and Security
In December, MCPS welcomed Mr. Edward (“Ed”) A. Clarke to the MCPS team as the director of school safety and security. Mr. Clarke spent more than five years leading the Maryland Center for School Safety, where he helped craft the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018 that enhances protocols and increases funding for school safety. Mr. Clarke previously served as MCPS Director of Safety and Security and is a retired captain from the Montgomery County Police Department. Over the coming months, Mr. Clarke and Dr. Christina Conolly, director of psychological services, will be hosting community conversations across the county to engage with parents, students and staff around school safety. Read biographical information about Mr. Clarke and Dr. Conolly.
School Security Infrastructure:
- MCPS has initiated a full systemwide modernization and replacement of the Access Control Systems at each school.
- We have upgraded the Visitor Management System (VMS) for schools. VMS screens visitor identification and cross-references with sex offender registries.
- We have 173 schools operating with active security vestibules. Eight of these vestibules were recently installed and are in their final stages of construction. For more information, click here.
- All secondary schools have a full complement of CCTV cameras located throughout the interior and exterior of the buildings. We have purchased and installed cameras at elementary schools, and strengthened secondary school camera infrastructure where needed. For more information, click here.
- We are continuing to enhance our communication infrastructure through an upgrade to digital two-way radios. Once the infrastructure is complete, schools will be upgraded to digital radios that will allow radio connectivity between schools, and between schools and security leadership.
School Safety Plans and Protocols:
- We are working with public safety experts to develop new, individualized safety plans for each school in preparation for next school year and a monitoring system to ensure plan fidelity. A section of these safety plans will focus on relocatable classrooms, and what operational practices as well as technology resources are most suited to the specific needs in each school’s configuration of outdoor spaces.
- We have established a workgroup with Montgomery County law enforcement partners to review our safety and security protocols and School Resource Officer coverage for schools, and we will make changes to emergency protocols for next year as necessary to align with current best practices for active assailant situations.
- We are collaborating with colleagues across the state to develop a model policy on behavioral threat assessments, which we will then implement locally.
- We are continuing to enhance background check protocols, including conducting child protective services background checks for returning employees and new hires.
- We have started the process of re-fingerprinting all employees. This process will become part of a regular cycle, as opposed to once at the time of hiring.
In April 2018, the governor signed into law the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, which significantly increases oversight of school safety and security by the Maryland Center for School Safety and the Maryland State Department of Education. The legislation calls for enhanced safety plans for each school, new policies associated with regular and ongoing behavioral threat assessments, and stronger protocols and training for emergency situations. We very much welcome this legislation and have been working closely with colleagues across the state to plan for implementation of this new law. For more information, click here.
Also under the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, a Safe Schools Fund Grant was created. MCPS received a Safe Schools grant in excess of $1 million dollars.
If you have not had the chance to read the MCPS report on school safety and security, I encourage you to review it. You can access the report HERE. The report lays out a short-term action plan and long-term strategic plan for safety and security in our district.
Safe Schools Maryland Hotline
If you see or hear something, say something. MCPS has an ongoing campaign to make sure all students and staff know that they can call the statewide school safety hotline at 833-MD-B-Safe (833-632-7233) to anonymously report known or suspected threats to MCPS students, staff or schools, for immediate investigation and action by the appropriate authorities.
Montgomery County Police and Local Law Enforcement Partnership
The Department of School Safety and Security (DSSS) has developed an outstanding partnership with the Montgomery County Police, the Sheriff’s Office, and municipal law enforcement agencies. Members of the DSSS recently met with the Montgomery County Police senior-level command team to discuss and address school safety issues and concerns to improve the collective approach to school safety. In addition, the DSSS will be meeting with the various district commanders to discuss and address issues of school safety. DSSS members will be holding similar meetings with our municipal law enforcement partners regarding school safety.
All of our Montgomery County law enforcement agencies participate in the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program. Regular discussions are held regarding the SRO Program with the Montgomery County Police.
The Montgomery County Police Department has expanded the SRO coverage to five days a week at all MCPS high schools.
Maryland Center for School Safety—Individualized Safety Plans
The DSSS is working with the Maryland Center for School Safety on several initiatives. Eventually, the DSSS will use a building assessment form to determine the safety and security infrastructure needs of our schools. Each school will also have an individualized safety plan that will look at best practices of security throughout the day. Finally, in May 2018, all principals received a memorandum establishing guidelines and best practices for our portable classrooms and DSSS has also worked on providing ACS to schools that have received portable classrooms.
School Safety Community Meetings
The DSSS and the Public Information Office is working with the Montgomery County Council of PTAs to hold five school community meetings to discuss school safety issues, student mental health concerns, and lockdown with options protocols. The community meetings will begin in February and run through March 2019. For dates and locations, click here.