Handbook – Student Health and Well-Being
Safety and Security
The Office of Safety and Security partners with stakeholders in matters concerning the safety of students, staff, and visitors.
School Security has the mission of strengthening security and safety practices to provide a safe and secure environment in which children can learn. The Office of Safety and Security works with school administrators and the school system’s support functions to coordinate various resources and prevent disruption and crime from occurring on school property.
The Office of Safety and Security works collaboratively with the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) and its School Resource Officers (SROs). We also use private security contractors to assist our efforts to limit crime and school disruption. During the school year, training sessions are held with school-based staff to educate administrators on various security issues. All staff members share the responsibility for ensuring the security of school buildings and the safety of students, staff and visitors.
School Resource Officers (SROs)
SROs, employed by HCPD, provide law enforcement services in the school environment. SROs assist schools in their mission of educating students at the high school level.
Security Assistants (SAs)
SAs, employed by HCPSS, are assigned to each high school and are responsible for monitoring the safety of students, staff, and visitors using school buildings. The SA works collaboratively with the SRO to ensure safe school environments.
To ensure the safety and security of students and staff and an orderly operation during visits to the HCPSS, parents, guardians and other individuals must follow HCPSS-established visitor procedures. Visitors must enter through the main/front entrance, report to the front office, state their business, and check in by using the visitor management system. To check in, a driver’s license or government-issued identification is required. There are no exceptions to the HCPSS-established visitor procedures. Each school’s administration reserves the right to deny an individual entry to their building.
Social Media Threats
Howard County public schools take ALL threats seriously. All threats are promptly and thoroughly investigated by school administration and public safety officials. It is also our commitment that appropriate information is provided to our parents and students as promptly as possible. It is important for all of us to work together to not tolerate threats, and to dispel rumors that could disrupt school safety and operations.
We remind parents, guardians, and caregivers of the importance of having their child discuss any unsettling social media situations with a trusted adult. In addition, we ask that they speak with their child about not adding credence to rumors. If they hear a rumor, they should discuss it with you, their school administrator, a trusted staff member, or the police.
Please help us reinforce this message by discussing the following with your student:
- Unfounded statements create anxiety and fear, so it is imperative that students not joke around about threats.Suggesting without evidence that someone could be a school shooter or that there could be a school shooting or other threat is the equivalent of saying “bomb” in an airport during a casual conversation or joke.
- Rather than contributing to a rumor by spreading it, students should report concerns to an adult at home or in the school building, such as an administrator, counselor, or teacher. Issues may also be shared with an SRO, SA, or a trusted staff member.
- Social media posts and other methods of spreading rumors can be considered a “Disruption” under the HCPSS Code of Conduct and may be subject to school consequences and/or police charges.
Under no circumstances will the HCPSS tolerate anyone creating a climate of fear and concern by threatening the well-being of our students, staff, and community, whether directly or through creating rumors about others. We must continue to work together and do everything necessary to ensure that this safe environment continues to exist.
We encourage all students and parents to review Grace’s Law 2.0, which increases penalties for cyber assaults on victims 18 years and younger. The law carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Any questions can be directed to the Office of Safety and Security at 410‑313–6840; or visit www.safeschoolsmd.org, the Safe Schools Maryland Tip Line – a tool for proactively addressing harmful situations and helping students as needed.
Emergency Contact Information
At the beginning of each school year, parents must complete and resubmit their child’s emergency contact information through the online student information system. Parents who do not have internet access may request a hard copy of the form from their child’s school. The form identifies emergency contact information for students in the event of an emergency. It is critical that you complete this form annually in a timely manner.
Advance preparation and planning can minimize the risks inherent in any emergency situation. HCPSS has a comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) for use during emergencies. This EOP complies with federal guidance and aligns with the Howard County Office of Emergency Management, Howard County Police Department (HCPD), Howard County Health Department, and the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS).
All responses to a systemwide emergency will be managed through the HCPSS Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The Director of Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response assumes the role of Incident Commander and will coordinate the HCPSS response and recovery operations. HCPSS has conducted multiple tabletop exercises and onsite emergency drills with personnel from HCDFRS and HCPD to review and improve emergency response procedures.
School Specific Emergency Operations Plans (EOP)
Each school has an EOP, which the school staff reviews and updates annually. The EOP contains staff roles and responsibilities, evacuation maps, teacher checklists and emergency release procedures. In addition to the plan, there is an annual drill schedule based on state requirements.
- Evacuation – An evacuation is an orderly and preplanned exit from the building. Use this procedure when conditions are safer outside than inside. This action is appropriate for building floods, fires, hazardous materials incidents in the school, explosion or threat of explosion, or post-earthquake.
- Lockdown – A lockdown requires students to immediately go to a protective place in their classroom or location. Use this procedure when there is an imminent threat or extreme situation inside or outside of the school with an immediate impact upon school operations. This action is considered appropriate for, but not limited to, situations that involve situations of violence and/or weapons and that immediately and directly affect the school site.
- Modified Lockdown– Modified lockdown requires students to immediately go to a protective place in their classroom or location while all normal school operations continue. Use this procedure when there is no immediate threat or extreme situation inside or outside the school and the situation does not warrant a full lockdown. This action is considered an appropriate response to violence, criminal activity, or any other situation that has the potential to affect the school site.
- Shelter in Place – Shelter in Place is the placement of students in a pre-determined location within the school or classroom. Use this procedure when external conditions are hazardous and shelter indoors is required. This action is considered appropriate for situations such as hazardous materials releases, nearby fires, and bioterrorism. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or local public safety officials indicate that incidents requiring communities to “shelter in place” are viewed as short-term, measured in terms of hours, not days.
- Duck, Cover and Hold On – Duck, Cover, and Hold On places students in a pre-determined location within the school or classroom. Use this procedure when conditions outside may cause severe structural damage to the building. This action is used as appropriate for, but not limited to hazardous materials incidents, earthquakes, explosions, terrorism, tornadoes or other types of severe wind situations that may cause significant structural damage.
Parents are requested not to call their child’s school or the Department of Education (central office) in times of emergency, as it is important to keep phone lines free for emergency communications. Please do not drive to the school unless directed to do so; circumstances may prevent parents from picking up their children or may require that children be picked up at a location other than the school. Instructions and current information about the status of schools will be communicated through the sources listed below.
Emergency School Closings
If it is necessary for the Superintendent to close or delay the start of schools due to inclement weather or other emergencies, parents may obtain information from the following sources:
- HCPSS Status website, status.hcpss.org/
- The school system’s homepage, www.hcpss.org
- HCPSS News email and text message alerts
- HCPSS Information Hotline 410–313–6666
- Twitter – @hcpss
The current operating status is identified on the HCPSS Status website: status.hcpss.org. The HCPSS operational color code options are:
- Code Green – Normal Operations (in accordance with the HCPSS calendar)
- Code Red – Schools and Offices Closed
- Code Orange – Schools Closed; Offices Open with Liberal Leave in Effect
- Code Blue – Schools Open Two Hours Late
- Code Yellow – Schools Dismiss Early
All notifications regarding emergency closings include both the code and operating status. If schools open two hours late, there is no morning half-day prekindergarten or RECC, and morning child care programs are delayed by two hours. If schools are closed, or closed early due to weather conditions, all evening activities in schools, both school-sponsored and community-sponsored, are canceled, including high school athletic practices/games, and aftercare programs sponsored by the Columbia Association and the Department of Recreation & Parks in Howard County public schools.
On weekends and holidays, if the Howard County Snow Emergency Plan is in effect by 7 a.m., all activities in schools, both school-sponsored and community-sponsored, are canceled for the entire day. This includes high school athletic practices and games.
Please do not call your child’s school or the HCPSS central office during emergencies or adverse weather conditions, to keep phone lines free for urgent calls.
Learn more about emergency closings and notifications at www.hcpss.org/emergency-closings.
Protections and Supports for Foreign-Born Students and Families (Policy 1070)
HCPSS is committed to providing a safe, engaging, and supportive school climate in which all individuals and families, regardless of their place of birth or immigration status, are valued and protected. No student will be excluded or discouraged from participating in any educational activity due to their real or perceived national origin, and all HCPSS property is a safe zone for its students and their families. Students and families will not be required or requested to provide any information about immigration status or social security numbers (except where specific rules apply regarding international exchange programs as defined in Policy 9000 Student Residency, Eligibility, Enrollment, and Assignment), nor will that information be collected or maintained. Bullying or harassment of any student on account of real or perceived immigration status or national origin will not be tolerated.
School Health Services
The Health Services Program supports academic achievement by bridging the gap between health, wellness and learning. Health Services staff enhance student health and well-being by providing disease prevention and health promotion activities that deter the spread of illness and decrease the incidence of injury, providing emergency care, administering medication, promoting positive health practices, and maintaining a safe and healthy school environment. They help students, parents and staff identify and secure appropriate and available health services and resources. School health services are provided in accordance with state and local guidelines, regulations and laws.
All students who are enrolled in Maryland schools are required by Maryland law to be immunized against certain diseases. The immunization regulations state that “a school principal or other person in charge of a school, public or private, may not knowingly admit a student to, or retain a student in, a preschool program or kindergarten through twelfth grade unless the student has furnished evidence of age-appropriate immunity against tetanus, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, measles (rubeola), mumps, rubella, Hepatitis B, varicella, meningitis, and tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis acquired through a Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.” Students under the age of seven are also required to have age-appropriate immunity to pertussis (whooping cough). Preschool students are also required to have age-appropriate immunity against Haemophilus influenzae, type b (Hib), and pneumococcal disease (Prevnar). In addition, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students must have a completed Blood Lead Testing Certificate.
Each student must have a completed Maryland Immunization Certificate Form on file at the school. Forms are available at the school or the Howard County Health Department. It is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to have the form completed prior to enrolling the student. If a student receives additional immunizations after school entry, the parent/guardian should send proof to the school health assistant or nurse so that school records are kept current. Students who transfer from one school to another are required to show proof of complete immunization at the new school.
The Howard County Health Department offers immunizations to students who lack health insurance or are underinsured. There is an administrative cost per immunization. Please call 410–313–7500 to find out if your child is eligible.
Insurance Protection for Students
The school system does not carry medical insurance for accidents that occur at school, including non-sport related injuries, such as trips and falls, physical education injuries, and recess/playground injuries. Thus, parents are encouraged to enroll students in the voluntary student accident insurance program. All students are eligible and information is available on their school website, under the “services” tab. Online enrollment is available at www.bobmccloskey.com/K12Voluntary.
Parents should also consider enrolling students although they are already insured through an outside company. The student accident insurance may help to pay for denied claims through your private insurance policies, or help to pay for rising insurance copayments and hospital costs. The student insurance plans can start as low as $26 per student, depending on your preferences.
The regular student accident insurance does not provide coverage for football. A separate accident insurance policy for high school football is available, or parents may arrange for appropriate insurance for students participating in interscholastic football. For information, contact Risk Management, Department of the Office of Safety and Security at 410–313–6824.
All medications should be given to students at home whenever possible. However, if it is necessary for a student to receive medication while in school, the following procedure must be followed for both prescription medications and all over-the-counter and homeopathic medications such as Advil, Tylenol, cold and allergy preparations, medicated lotions or creams, and herbal supplements:
- A complete written physician order must be obtained by the parent/guardian. Forms are available in the school health room and from the HCPSS health services webpage.
- The parent/guardian must give written permission to administer the medication to the student.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medication must be in a new, unopened container labeled with the student’s name. The prescription medication should be in the pharmacy container and labeled for the student. Ask the pharmacy for a second labeled bottle for school. The OTC and prescription medication orders must have the name of the student, name of the medication, date of the order, complete directions for administration in school, physician’s name, and the expiration date of the medication.
- The medication must be delivered to the school by the parent/guardian, not by the student.
- A new physician’s order form must be submitted each time there is a change of dosage or time of administration and for every new school year after July 1.
- The first dose of any medication must be administered at home to observe for any adverse reaction to the medication.
- Each HCPSS school is equipped with two emergency medications in accordance with Maryland regulations. Epinephrine is stored for an emergent anaphylactic reactions for an unknown allergic reaction. Naloxone is stored for emergent response to an opioid overdose in the school building.
Home and Hospital Program
The Home and Hospital Teaching Program (HHT) provides interim instruction to students who are actively enrolled in HCPSS and experiencing a medical diagnosis that prevents them from participating in their school of enrollment. This short-term service enables students to continue their academic work and prepare for their eventual return to school. The school of enrollment, parent, child, Home and Hospital Teaching Office, and the community provider work together to support each student’s needs during the student’s recovery period and during the transition back to classes. Collaboration is essential for a smooth transition back to the school of enrollment (COMAR 13A.03.05 Home and Hospital). For more information or to arrange for services, contact the school counselor or pupil personnel worker at your child’s school.
HCPSS policy promotes health and wellness as essential contributors toward student and staff achievement and well-being. Policy 9090, Wellness Through Physical Activity and Nutrition, strengthens the system’s commitment to student and staff wellness through nutrition education, physical education, physical activity and the selection of healthy foods.
HCPSS is among the first public school systems to adopt Institute of Medicine Nutritional Standards. Other provisions include breakfast in all schools, incorporation of “brain breaks” throughout the instructional day, and healthier options for school meals and snacks. In addition, the policy prohibits withholding recess as a punishment, regulates the use of food for school celebrations, and governs food and beverage offerings in school vending machines.
Yearly, each school principal will ensure that a School Wellness Team is formed to spearhead health and wellness initiatives at the school that are in alignment with Policy 9090. The School Wellness Team may include parents/guardians, physical education teachers, classroom teachers, school nurses/assistants, students, school administrators, and community health and wellness partners. Policy 9090 is ranked among the best in the nation by the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. HCPSS earned the U.S. Department of Agriculture HealthierUS School Challenge Award, which recognizes outstanding practices in school nutrition programs, physical education and physical activity.
Educational Programs for Pregnant and Parenting Students (Policy 9100)
To support pregnant students and teen parents in continuing their education, HCPSS offers two distinct programs — Teen Parenting Childcare and Outreach. Parenting students may elect to remain in the regular school program or receive supports from the Childcare or Outreach programs. They must be allowed to participate in all aspects of the educational program, including all academic, physical, and social components, and must have access to a range of specific activities and policies that govern activities both in and outside of the classroom. These activities include, but are not limited to, excused absences, make-up work, accommodations for instruction, lactation, and designated support staff in the school. Student Services staff care is available to support students. For more information, visit Teen Parenting Childcare and Outreach Programs.
Exercise outdoors is healthy and is strongly encouraged. It provides a break from the regular school routine, a chance to get some outside air, and an opportunity to burn off excess energy. If conditions preclude the full recess time, even a five-minute break can revitalize children and prepare them for more sitting and academic learning. Children are expected to wear clothing appropriate for forecasted conditions when participating in recess or outside activities.
The decision to go out or stay in for recess is the decision of the administrator at individual schools. On rare occasions due to extreme weather, a decision may be made at the school system level. The following factors are considered in determining if recess is to be held outside:
- Temperature and humidity
- Wind chill
- Heat index and air quality
- Age of students
- Length of time outdoors
- Adequacy of the children’s clothing
- Condition of the playground
- Falling precipitation (more than a sprinkle or mist)
- Thunder and lightning
Generally, students will be outside for recess when the temperature combined with the wind chill is not less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit or the heat index reading is less than 95 degrees. Children with certain health conditions may need special accommodations during extremely hot or cold weather. Parents of those children should provide medical documentation and may be consulted to determine if other arrangements are necessary.
To ensure student safety and quality motor learning, HCPSS physical education students must adhere to the following safety protocols:
- Wear tennis shoes or sneakers that remain tied or strapped for proper execution of skills.
- Remove all jewelry except stud earrings and medical ID bracelets and necklaces.
- Remove dangling clothing, scarves and lanyards prior to the beginning of class. (Exceptions should be made for religious garments)
- Remove sharp objects from pockets and hair.
- Pull long hair away from face, depending on activity.
- Wear attire that allows for free and safe movement and that is conducive to physical activity in Grades 6–12.
- Wear play clothes in Grades K–5.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requires school systems to inspect their facilities for building materials containing asbestos, develop asbestos management plans, and implement appropriate response actions. The Howard County Public School System’s program for fulfilling these responsibilities is outlined in the asbestos management plan for each building. These plans contain information on the initial inspections, re-inspections, periodic surveillance, response actions, and post-response action activities and are located in each school’s administrative office.
A copy of each plan is also located at the Department of Education and is available for public review during regular business hours. The plans may not be taken from the building.
Schools constructed after October 1988 are not to contain asbestos-containing building materials. In older schools, floor tiles often contained asbestos and a few facilities have asbestos-containing thermal insulation on piping located in crawl spaces inaccessible to building occupants.
The majority of asbestos removal is completed in conjunction with school renovation projects. Asbestos removal projects are scheduled when the school facility is closed, such as summer and spring break, although deviations from this can occur due to logistical issues. For additional information, contact the Office of the Environment at 410–313‑8874.
Testing for Lead in Drinking Water
For information regarding HCPSS’ lead testing program visit: https://ieq.hcpss.org/water-quality-reports.
Integrated Pest Management
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program employed by HCPSS is a proactive monitoring-based approach to insect, rodent, nuisance wildlife, and weed problems. Our program follows the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) regulations for IPM in schools, and our IPM plan is approved by and submitted to the MDA. HCPSS facilities are monitored at least once a month to determine the need for pest control and the proper identification of any pest problem. The grounds are monitored on a regular basis by staff during routine maintenance.
If it is determined that control of an identified pest is necessary, the first methods used are alternatives to pesticide applications. The exterior landscape IPM program relies on proactive practices such as proper plant selection, pruning, certified seed use, and proper mowing and irrigation techniques. The urban/facilities program relies on non-chemical methods such as exclusion, trapping and sanitation to manage pest problems and reduce the need for pesticides. After non-chemical means are exhausted, or in the event an infestation requires an emergency treatment for the safety and/or health of students, staff, visitors or the educational environment, pesticide use be approved for use as a last resort.
Whenever pesticides are used, the least-toxic effective pesticide is applied. In addition, applications are made in places and at times that limit the chance for human exposure to any pesticide material. No pesticide application will be made without prior identification of a pest and pest problem, the meeting of some threshold, and the determination that non-chemical means have been exhausted.
The HCPSS will, 24 hours prior to any scheduled pesticide application, notify parents/guardians of all students at all grade levels if a pesticide application is deemed necessary in the school that their child attends, as well as staff in any HCPSS facility in which they are assigned. Emergency applications of pesticides (primarily in response to large stinging insect nests near student occupied areas) may be made and, per regulation, notices will be sent home within 24 hours of the application. Parents of elementary students will receive a paper notice; middle and high school parents/guardians will receive an email notification through the school’s front office.
Maryland state regulations require that the school system allows parents of middle or high school students to request to be included on a notification list for pesticide applications at their child’s school. (Note: Because HCPSS sends out notices universally, a request to be included on the middle and high school notification list will not provide additional notification.)
To be placed on this year’s notification list, or to receive a paper copy instead, parents of middle or high school students must send a request including the parent’s name, address, telephone number, the student’s name, the school attending, and an email address (optional but preferred) to the following address. The requests, as well as any questions concerning the IPM program should be sent to: Marcie Hardin, Safety and Regulatory Affairs, Howard County Public School System, 9020 Mendenhall Ct., Columbia, MD 21045 firstname.lastname@example.org ; phone: 410–313–7180
Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each pesticide or bait that may be used on HCPSS property are maintained centrally and in an IPM notebook located in the custodial office of each facility. The notebooks are available for review by parents and visitors by requesting access through the front office of each school. Some IPM data and information may be on the school’s Work Orders which custodial staff can readily access.
The following list identifies the trade name, common name, and EPA registration number of all pesticide materials that are likely to be used in one or more Howard County public school buildings or on school grounds following determination of need, exhausting non-chemical options, and approval and notification as detailed above.
Interior/Structural/Exterior Urban Use
|Advance Carpenter Ant Bait
|Abamectin B1 (499–370)
|Advion Ant, Cockroach Gel, Bait Arena
|Indoxacarb (352–664, 746, 668, 652)
|Drax Ant Kil Gel, and NutraBait, Drax Ant Kil PF
|Boric Acid (9444–131, 131, 135)
|Niban FG (fine granular bait), granular bait
|Boric Acid (64405–2)
|Eugenol, 2-Phenethyl proprionate (Exempt)
|Eugenol, Thyme Oil (Exempt)
|Rosemary oil, 2-Phenethyl proprionate (Exempt)
|Maxforce roach killer gel FC
|Maxforce Granular Insect bait, Roach killer bait gel
|Advion Cockroach gel bait
|Prescription treatment Ultra-fine oil
|Refined light paraffinic petroleum oil (862–23–499)
|2-Phenethyl Proprionate, Eugenol (Exempt)
|2-Phenethyl Proprionate, Pyrethrins (67435–16)
|Pyrethrins, Piperonil Butoxide (4816–353)
|Gentrol Point source
|Sodium tetraborate Decahydrate (Borax)(149–8–64405)
|Advance Dual Choice Bait
|2-Phenethyl Proprionate, Eugenol (Exempt)
|Summit Bti Briquets, and Bits
|Baccicllus thuringiensis (6218–47,6218–73)
|Bacillus thuringiensis (58998–7)
|MCPA, dicamba, carfentrazone-ethyl, and MCPP (2217–834)
|MSMA 6 Plus
|Drive 75 DF
|Crabgrass preventer with Tupersan
NOTE: For an exterior application of a pesticide, Maryland State regulations allow a postponement no longer than 14 days after notice is sent home due to weather conditions or other extenuating circumstances. If postponed longer than that, a written notice will be re-issued with the new date of application.
(Please note: per MD state law, this list may be amended with pesticides registered for use with the State Chemists Office, as needed and approved by the Safety and IPM coordinators of the HCPSS.)
Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect (Policy 1030)
The law requires any Howard County Public School System employee or service provider to immediately report suspected cases of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect of a student. Child abuse is any physical or mental injury of a child by anyone who has permanent or temporary care, custody or responsibility for a child, which harms the child’s health or welfare, or puts the child at substantial risk of being harmed. The person making an oral report of abuse or neglect must submit a written report within 48 hours after the contact disclosed the existence of possible abuse and/or neglect.
It is the responsibility of the principal to make certain that the oral report is made immediately to the proper authorities. The principal permits the Department of Social Services (DSS) Protective Service Workers and the Howard County Police Department to interview the child on school premises in connection with an investigation of a case involving suspected child abuse, sexual abuse, mental injury or neglect, whether the child is the alleged victim or witness, and whether or not the child has been previously interviewed by the police or Social Services.
The principal shall determine, after consultation with the individual from the Howard County Department of Social Services (HCDSS) or the Howard County Police Department (HCPD), whether a school official should be present during questioning. The school official should be selected, with input from the victim, on a case-by-case basis for the purpose of providing support and comfort to the student who will be questioned. All questioning of the victim or the non-victim witness must be done by the police or representative of DSS. The HCPSS/HCDSS “Procedures Concerning Abuse Investigations During School Hours” shall be followed.
The principal, in consultation with the HCDSS or the HCPD, decides if parents should be notified of a report or an interview, who will notify them, and when they will be notified.
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call Howard County’s Child Protective Services at 410–872–4203.
To report after hours (after 4:30 pm., weekends, holidays), call Police Communications at 410-313-2200.
Research Involving Employees and Students
Policy 3030 establishes guidelines for approving, conducting and reporting research in the school system. Research conducted must be of high quality, safeguard the privacy of individuals, further the goals of the school system, minimize interruptions to the instructional program, and go through the proper approval process. Further, the policy mandates that any research involving students requires informed consent from the parent/guardian and the assent of the student. For more information on applying to conduct research in HCPSS, please refer to Policy 3030 and this document.