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School board moves to deal with violence

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Published on: Thursday, January 17, 2013

By Donna Broadway

ROCKVILLE - In the aftermath of the December Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed the lives of 27 people, 20 of them being children, Montgomery County citizens are concerned with school safety and gun control.

Despite the Montgomery County School board recently voting to move $364,000 from fiscal year 2014 to complete the installation of access control systems in elementary schools, lawmakers and parents still feel that there are more changes to be made.

Many parents are asking for armed security in schools.

There have been school resource officers (SRO’s) in Baltimore City Public Schools since the 1960s, the program expanded to the rest of the state in the 1990s.

SRO’s are fully sworn and armed police officers, who are assigned to a school or police district. The duties of an SRO range from acting as a community liaisons, diffusing violent situations, or simply being an open ear for students.

There are currently 352 school resource officers in Maryland Public Schools. Six of whom are in Montgomery County.

The officers are assigned to the high schools in each police district.

 There are over 45,000 high school students in the county, which means there is one officer for almost 8,000 students.

SGT. Suzanne Harrell of the MCPD SRO office assures parents that our SRO’s top priority is to keep students safe in their learning environments.

 “Montgomery County has numerous safety plans on the school side and our side. The MCPD and the MCPS meet on a routine basis to discuss these plans and our officers assist with MCPS’s emergency drills, which include shelter-in-place and lockdown drills,” she says.

While Montgomery County is currently discussing department staffing plans for fiscal year 2014, the Maryland General Assembly may have more immediate plans.  

Delegate John Cluster(D-8)  is currently drafting a bill that will require school resource officers in every Maryland Public School, including elementary schools.

The bill will be proposed as emergency legislation, meaning it will take effect immediately upon approval of Governor O’Malley.

Cluster’s goal is to have the bill done before March and effective by the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

 “We have pretty safe schools, but we have problem areas. It’s sad but we have to protect our kids and this is how we do it,” Cluster says.

 “This is not the only fix we have to make. We need to make changes to mental health treatment. A lot of facilities have been closed, so we’re giving less help for mental illness. Adding more SROs and available mental health care can make a big difference,” he adds.

Jon Carrier, president of Maryland Association of School Resource Officers, supports Delegate Clusters bill.

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