On December 14, 2012, a gunman opened fire on innocent elementary schoolchildren attending class in the pristine, bucolic suburb of Newtown, Connecticut, resulting in the deaths of 26 children and teachers. One year later, spending on school security measures throughout the Washington, D.C. area has skyrocketed.
Immediately after the tragedy, Congressional leaders held hearings on gun-control legislation and advocacy groups began campaigns for gun-violence. The massacre also led to a nationwide debate on the health and security of students, and the formation of special-interest groups devoted to updating out-of-date security measures.
Montgomery County’s Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr approached the sensitive subject with prudence. In addition to revamping outdated emergency-response policies, he revised the Montgomery County Public Schools website to include a separate section devoted solely to school security. The refurbished “Department of School Safety and Security” page includes links to each individual school’s emergency plans and resources for parents concerned about the well-being of their children. An updated seven-minute video entitled “Emergency Preparedness” also outlines the proper procedures of the MCPS Emergency Response Plan.
Earlier this year, administrators approved a $364,000 spending project devoted to the installation of buzz-in systems with exterior cameras and intercoms at local elementary and middle schools. County high schools already maintain an identification system and require students and teachers to carry ID cards. Although Recession-era budget cuts severely curbed a popular School Resource Officer (SRO) or school-based police program, over the past year several County Councilmembers have strived to return SROs to many MCPS middle and high schools.
Neighboring school districts have also responded to school shootings by introducing their own creative measures. Prince William County doubled the number of School Resource Officers in each school. In Prince George’s County, officials organized a colossal $7.5 million project to advance an innovative system of electronically-controlled entrances, panic buttons and interior cameras at all Prince George’s schools.
You can learn more about new security measures in Montgomery County Public Schools at http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/security/.
Article by Mahya Bigdeli, MoCo Student staff writer