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Baltimore County Reacts To The Connecticut Shooting
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December 18, 2012
Local school officials are providing increased security for students and are reviewing safety plans in response to the shootings at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school last week that took the lives of 20 children and six adults. WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn has this report on county school officials’ response to the shootings.
Glenn: According to Baltimore County school officials, police patrols were increased at all district elementary schools on Monday. Those schools were targeted because while most county middle and all high schools have school resource officers, SROs, for security needs, elementary schools do not.
Dr. Dallas Dance: It’s all about being proactive.
Glenn: That’s County School Superintendent Dallas Dance speaking at a news conference yesterday afternoon.
Dance: With the incident that occurred on Friday with elementary being the focus, we wanted to make sure that parents understood that we’ve already had protocols in place to make sure that SROs or police officers dropping in and out of campuses anyway, but we also wanted to amp that up a little bit and make sure that folks understood police officers are constantly roving around our schools and particularly our elementary schools. Even in a case where they needed them, they could quickly get on that campus.
Glenn: Dance said new student safety plans were in the making before the Connecticut shooting. Those efforts started at the beginning of the school year, when there was a shooting at a county high school and a separate gun incident at a middle school. Dance said a safety and security director was hired shortly after those incidents to come up with a proactive plan to ensure student safety.
Dance: We’re going to create a district-wide framework in terms of what we feel are important in terms of crisis and crisis intervention for campuses, but we also know that every single principal has to be guided by a framework to make it look individual for his or her campus. In terms of safety, in terms of security, in terms of prevention, in terms of making sure that activities are not happening on their campus.
Glenn: Dance said they are considering procedures schools in other parts of the country have successfully implemented, such as student and staff IDs and buzzer systems at all schools.
Dance: Every single school you go to, there’s a camera that looks at the individual, and the individual has to state his or her name, their purpose and it’s operationalized in terms of what needs to happen before someone gets in. We do have it in all our elementary schools, but not in our middle and high schools.
Glenn: In visiting schools on Monday, Dance said he noticed more parents bringing their children to school, and giving them hugs before they left. He said additional counselors were on hand at the schools for parents and students and that they will be there as long as they are needed.
Dance: We know our students are dealing with some issues we never would have imagined to be dealing with and we need to make sure there are folks on our campuses that will be vent sessions for them or folks they can vent to, to make sure they are sharing those situations and problems with.
Glenn: Baltimore city officials issued a statement saying the presence of school police was being increased this week at district schools. They also stated that support teams are on hand at the schools for counseling needs. A parent of a 14-year-old at the Calvert School, a private school in Baltimore city, who did not want to be identified, said:
Parent: I feel confident with the school and their safety. I know their procedures … and I know that both the head master and the head of the middle school sent out information for the parents, web sites we could look to get info on how to approach it with our kids, so they’ve been very proactive.
Glenn: The Connecticut shooting has Baltimore county school and police officials working closer together to insure the safety of local students. I’m Gwendolyn Glenn reporting in Baltimore for 88.1, WYPR.
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