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School Safety & Security –
Frequently Asked Questions

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School Security

Why are School Resource Officers only located in the high schools and select middle schools?

School Resource Officers (SRO) are Howard County Police Department employees and their staffing numbers are based on the police department’s budget and staffing allocations. HCPSS worked with Howard County government and the Police Department to enhance the program and develop a multiyear plan to have an SRO in every middle and high school. SROs also serve all nearby middle and elementary schools when needed.

What is the role of Howard County Police Department in ensuring safe schools?

Police assist the school administration in analyzing law enforcement problems in schools, investigating criminal incidents, and building positive relationships with students and staff while providing a safe school environment and deterrence to crime. The School Resource Officers who serve our system ensure protection of students and staff and provide positive supports for students through mentoring. They also support school staff with mental health evaluations and assessments but are not involved with student discipline.

How are HCPSS and HCPD working together to create a restorative culture in schools?

The HCPSS Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is working directly with the Howard County Police Department to facilitate trainings on cultural proficiency, implicit bias and restorative justice.

What kinds of cultural proficiency, bias or other related trainings do SROs and other patrol officers receive?

Currently, all HCPD officers receive training on crisis intervention, fair and impartial policing, cultural awareness, youth services, mental health, active shooter, intellectual and developmental disabilities, critical incident stress management, verbal de-escalation techniques and active listening, LGBTQ, autism and hearing impairments awareness. Additionally, SROs receive specialized training on threat response to prevent school violence, school safety and emergency operations plans, diversity, ethics, students with special needs, social media, school law, informal counseling and mentorship, understanding the teen brain, drugs and alcohol, violence and victimization, sex trafficking, youth trends and school culture, and instruction and guest speaking. SROs also receive a 40-hour SRO training through the National Association of School Resource Officers.

The HCPSS Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is working directly with the Howard County Police Department to facilitate trainings on cultural proficiency, implicit bias and restorative justice.

Do HCPD officers assist with school disciplinary actions involving students?

No. Officers are not involved in disciplinary actions. There are times when officers may be asked by school administrators to assist during extenuating circumstances, for example during a fight that school staff are unable to stop.

Who can community members contact for information about the cultural proficiency training for officers?

With questions or concerns related to cultural proficiency training of officers of school system staff, please contact Dr. Kevin Gilbert, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at 410–313–1542.

What does the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018 (SB1265) require and how is HCPSS implementing those measures?

SB1265 establishes an advisory board of stakeholders under the Maryland Center for School Safety that must develop guidelines and model policies in the area of Assessment Teams, School Resource Officer training and appropriate usage, coordination with local law enforcement, school-based drills, and mental health services coordination. Local school systems must develop plans aligning with the guidelines. The newly established Office of Safety and Security is currently in the process of reviewing school safety and security processes and ensuring that they align with the standards set forth in this bill.

Why don’t high schools have a locked front door and buzzer system like our elementary and middle schools?

Dr. Martirano has directed the installation of buzzer systems and locking front doors at every HCPSS high school to be completed before the end of the school year.

How can students who travel to portable classrooms, go outside for lunch or recess, and during arrival and dismissal times be protected?

A variety of procedural security measures, surveillance and communications equipment, increased patrols and environmental design features are in place to protect students at these times. The Office of Safety and Security is evaluating school system protocols to standardize all procedures and employ site-specific measures as needed.

Why are front doors unlocked after school hours? What is being done about security during after-school activities and aftercare as well as community users of school facilities?

Front doors are unlocked after school hours because many external entities use school facilities and only a limited number of staff are available to monitor each site. After-hours security is being evaluated as part of our overall security program assessment.

What kinds of active shooter drills are conducted regularly?

Drills covering the response to an active assailant inside a school facility and outside a school facility are conducted regularly as part of our current school lockdown drills. Revised active shooter training protocols are currently under development. The school system uses “Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills: Guidance from the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of School Resource Officers” to develop and appropriately explain drills to students at every developmental level.

What has been done to create general disaster plans and crisis plans that take into consideration individualized learning and physical differences?

Each school’s Emergency Operations Plan currently contains a planning requirement and documentation for those with special needs in an emergency. School staff who create emergency plans for students with disabilities practice with students regularly during emergency drills. In addition, an access and functional needs workgroup has been created to focus specifically on developing planning requirements, selecting specialized equipment and developing other support mechanisms for students with special needs during an emergency.

What are the consequences for students who threaten or cause harm?

If a threat is made by a student, a team consisting of administration, school counselor, and/or school psychologist collaborate to investigate the validity of the threat, determine the level of the threat that was made, and decide if a referral for additional resources and/or implementation of Policy 9200: Discipline and the HCPSS Student Code of Conduct consequences are required. These consequences can range from Level 1 (teacher led response) to Levels 4 and 5 (suspension and long-term suspensions) depending on the severity of the threat or harm caused. In addition to consequences, appropriate interventions and supports are put into place for the student and restorative conversations occur as part of the re-entry process.

Can students have pepper spray and tear gas in the schools? Can students carry knives to protect themselves?

No. These items are considered weapons. Possessing a weapon on school grounds constitutes a violation of Policy 9250: Weapons. Penalties for weapon violations can range from consequences such as detention or in-school suspension to long-term out-of-school suspension or expulsion.

Mental Health Services

What types of services are provided to students in elementary, middle and high school?

HCPSS school counselors and school psychologists provide an array of mental health services and supports for students at all levels. To learn more about these services, please refer to the following web pages:

Are all staff trained to recognize signs of mental health issues?

As of this past spring, most HCPSS staff had completed training that prepares educators to identify, approach and refer students exhibiting signs of suicidal ideation, substance use/misuse, and psychological distress, including depression and anxiety. The online training is funded by the University of Maryland Center for School Mental Health and endorsed by the Maryland State Department of Education.

How can the community enhance mental health awareness efforts?

Ensuring that children and adults in our community are receiving the supports they need is important. When you are aware that someone is struggling or in need, notify or refer them to an adult who can help. The student services team in each school is a good place to start, but any trusted adult at school is prepared to guide students to the proper supports in an understanding and confidential manner.

How can schools dedicate additional resources—including more staff—to mental health supports for students?

HCPSS Student Services staff do an excellent job supporting our students and are in high-demand. Dr. Martirano has introduced a multi-year plan to add social workers and nurses across our schools to provide increased support at every level from elementary school to high school. It is also crucial to continue to leverage the county partnerships available to HCPSS, including the county Health Department, Local Children’s Board and others. Through the partnership with the Health Department, HCPSS is evaluating ways to expand support offerings.

When and how does HCPSS determine that a student receiving mental health supports is a threat to others?

Potential threats are difficult to determine and we never want to assume that a child or staff member receiving mental health supports could be a threat to others. It is critical for families and friends to work collaboratively with school staff when they suspect a child is struggling or could be a danger to themselves or others. Every threat is taken seriously until a thorough investigation concludes that the threat is not viable or has subsided. Any HCPSS student who makes a threat of harm to others is referred to school administration who work with the Howard County Police Department and the Office of Safety and Security. It is our responsibility to protect the confidentiality of all students—whether or not they receive a particular support.