Safe Schools

Detailed update of school security in 2013

Enhanced school security features and practices

  • Buzzer systems, and camera and communication system at a combined cost of approximately $1 million from state and local funding.
  • Buzz In Systems – All visitors must get buzzed in to gain access to the school.
  • All elementary schools will have a functional buzz in system by the end of the calendar year.
  • Four middle schools currently have a functional buzz in system. The remaining 15 middle schools will have functional buzzer systems completed by spring 2014.
  • Controlled Entry – School access is configured to direct visitor through the administrative office.
  • 14 elementary schools have controlled entry through the front office. All future renovations require the same functionality.
  • 10 elementary schools that currently have open space configuration will be modified to create more secure classrooms by September 2014.
  • HCPSS conducted a review of school floor plans to identify safe zones in case of emergency.
  • The Police Department has been given access to security cameras during emergencies.
  • All schools will have an automated visitor management system that verify identification and standardize badging in place by July 2014.
  • HCPSS security guidelines have been developed and implemented in all schools.
  • School plans have been reviewed, updated and evaluated. HCPSS increased the number of exercises to be conducted, with an emphasis on practicing the various response actions used in emergency situations. County police officers attended lockdown exercises to observe and understand school procedures.
  • Additional intruder and lockdown exercises have been implemented at all schools.
  • Training for all staff on security protocols has been conducted, and is ongoing.
  • Emergency supplies were provided to schools. Radios were upgraded or replaced.
  • Planning with non-school users of school facilities (Columbia Association, Howard County Recreation and Parks) to coordinate emergency plans and actions.
  • School vulnerability surveys were conducted to identify areas for improvement.

Implemented use of school bus cameras

  • 212 school buses will have camera systems on board by January 2014, at a total cost of approximately $330,400.
  • Each bus has four cameras – Two in the front of bus (one facing the steps); one in the middle of the bus; one in the rear of the bus.
  • Additional buses will be configured as funding becomes available

Improved communication throughout school community

  • Information on the HCPSS website School Culture and Climate page includes bullying prevention – including resources and tips, and new reporting forms to include the Sprigeo app – as well as on PBIS, Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, and the work of the Anti-Bullying Task Force.
  • The HCPSS website Transportation page includes information on school bus cameras, including a video of an interview with Transportation Director David Ramsay and a Frequently Asked Questions document.
  • Information from Stand Up HoCo is shared on the HCPSS Facebook page.
  • Links to HCPSS resources are shared on HCPSS Facebook page and Twitter account.
  • The Office of Student Services Networking Fair was held on April 25, 2013 during the HCPSS Professional Development Day. Over 65 Howard County community agencies, group practices and individual providers attended and shared resources with more than 450 HCPSS Student Services staff.
  • HCPSS Office of Student Services hosted the Anti-Bullying “Resources Launch” on August 16, 2013. Training materials, videos, and other resources used by HCPSS to support bully prevention were shared with members of the HCPSS Board of Education, Howard County community agencies, and members of the HCPSS Anti-Bullying and Mental Health Task Forces.
  • The Student Mental Health Task Force Follow-up Report was provided at the September 26, 2103 HCPSS Board of Education Meeting.
  • StandUpHoCo was launched on October 25, 2013. An on-line and web-based reporting system for incidents of bullying StandUpHoCo is a collaborative effort among Howard County educational, recreational and community-based partners.
  • The Gallup Survey was administered to all HCPSS students and staff in Fall 2013. Results were recently shared with HCPSS Principals and Central Office Departments.
  • The Student Services Advisory Committee (SSAC) continues to meet four times a year for collaboration among HCPSS and Howard County community agencies (e.g., Grassroots, NAMI, Domestic Violence Center/Hope Works, Office of Children Services) on a variety of health and mental health topics.
  • The Threat Management Process Workgroup has met four times in Fall 2013 and will continue their work in Winter 2014. A revised Threat Management Process is anticipated for the 2014-15 year.
  • The Safe Schools HCPSS Anti-Bullying on-line training is anticipated to be available for all HCPSS staff in January 2014.
  • The Mental Health Task Force is currently working on the following:
  • Reviewing available professional development trainings, such as Kognito, Mental Health First Aid, UMD Center for School Mental Health Training Modules for Educators and School-Based Staff.
  • Designing a brochure/information sheet that describes the benefits of communication between school staff and outside providers.
  • In collaboration with the HCPSS Office of Communications designing resources and/or links for the HCPSS website that will disseminate information about mental health access and available supports.

Joint Task Force on School Safety

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Superintendent of Schools Renee A. Foose, and Police Chief William McMahon released the findings of the Joint Task Force on School Safety during a press conference at Thunder Hill Elementary School on March 18.

In the above report Ulman outlined a number of specific recommendations that will be adopted immediately and implemented by the end of the year. These include buzzers, cameras and a badging system in every elementary and middle school, police camera streams at the 911 center, and improved training and drills in all school facilities including private schools and day care centers.

The report confirms that many protocols already exist which are effective in keeping Howard County schools safe, Foose noted. “We have many strong practices and partnerships in place, and staff that are dedicated to our children’s well being.” She added that the recommendations outlined in the report, once completed, “will raise school security to an even higher level. I am committed to quickly implementing these strategies.”

“Our school system and county leadership hold the safety of students and staff as our highest priority,” Foose said. “We greatly appreciate the continued support and full collaboration of our county government and safety partners.”

Community Feedback

The below information was compiled and reviewed by HCPSS staff and safety partners for consideration toward safety recommendations that were submitted to the Board of Education. We very much appreciate everyone’s input and participation.

Forum Feedback:

General Information:

Community Forum

Original Message from Dr. Renee A. Foose

In the wake of last week’s tragedy in Newtown, CT, this week was particularly challenging for communities across the country. Many members of our community have contacted the school system to share concerns and offer support.

This week, we established a Joint Task Force on School Safety in collaboration with the county government. The task force is chaired by Chief of Police William McMahon, HCPSS Executive Director of School Improvement and Administration William Ryan, and HCPSS Acting Chief of Operations and Finance Ken Roey. Members include representatives from county government, public safety, public health, the school system, parents and students. The task force will focus on three areas:

  • Physical security and security protocols in schools
  • Emergency response planning
  • Prevention

Please consider participating in a community forum that will be held by the newly established task force. At this forum, the task force will share its mission and solicit feedback on school safety. Please register in advance to attend. If unable to attend, input may also be provided through the registration form.

I wish each and every one of you a joyous and rejuvenating holiday season. And I thank you for being a part of what makes this school system so great.

Viral Social Media Rumors About Violence in Schools

The HCPSS has been notified about viral social media rumors referencing violence in schools on Friday of this week. These rumors are circulating in school districts throughout the state. Our school system administrators and security team are working with the Howard County police, and at this time none of the rumors have been credible. Please be assured that all rumors and threats will continue to be taken seriously and fully investigated. The police will continue to provide an enhanced presence around our school campuses.

We encourage children to be responsible citizens, and this includes conduct on social media. We ask parents and guardians to continue to emphasize the importance of not spreading rumors and notifying adults of any inappropriate social media they receive.

If you receive any information that needs to be communicated to the police, please contact the Howard County police immediately at 410-313-2911.

School And Student Safety

In light of the tragedy at a Connecticut elementary school, we want to assure our students, staff and community that the Howard County Public School System places the safety of students and staff as our highest priority. Our schools take a comprehensive approach to ensuring that students have a safe and secure place to learn.

Here are just a few of the many things we routinely do to keep our schools safe:

  • All schools have emergency plans in place, train staff and hold monthly safety drills, practicing responses to different emergency situations.
  • All schools have security cameras that cover the main entrance.
  • All school visitors are required to sign in with the main office upon their arrival.
  • School Resource Officers (Howard County Police Officers) are currently placed at all high schools and several middle schools. These officers also support elementary schools, as needed.
  • All employees wear identification badges.

In the coming weeks, our student services staff is prepared to provide supports for those students who appear to be struggling in coping with the tragedy in Connecticut.

Our schools have excellent relationships with local law enforcement and other agencies, and we have ongoing collaborative reviews of security procedures. You will notice an increased presence of the Howard County Police Department patrol officers as they make frequent checks around our school campuses. We want to reassure our students and staff that we take their safety seriously.

A key to keeping our schools safe is good communication. We constantly encourage community members, students and staff to report suspicious activity or any concerns to school administrators and/or teachers as soon as possible.

Our school system and our partners will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our children and staff are provided a safe, healthy, and supportive environment.

Additional Resources For Talking To Your Children and Students