How Charles Co. is securing schools after threats

Threats at one Maryland school have led the district to take a number of steps to keep kids safer.

This spring, loaded guns were brought to school by two students just a few weeks apart at La Plata High School. The Charles County School District responded by holding public safety meetings, taking questions and comments.

From that advice they came up with a series of safety steps they are now putting into action.

Open spaces

Jason Stoddard, the director of school safety and security for Charles County, said the district is using some of the money in its operating budget to close open spaces at local schools, including La Plata High.

“We were able to use some of that money to finish their second floor. Now it’s closed in. They needed 10 doors. The sister school, McDonough, needed almost 40 doors, and we were able to finish that in the last several weeks.

“We have nine additional open-space schools. They are not ideal, and we continue to work with our county partners as well as our state partners to obtain as much funding as we possibly can do to the renovations we need to close those schools in.”

The next school on the renovation list is Stoddert Middle School.

Police access

The school system has provided key access cards to all county schools to police officers with the rank of corporal and above.

“This is the first time in the history of our public schools that we’ve given that type of unabated access to our police officers,” said Stoddard. “That is a program that is also continuing to grow. “

Clear signage

Charles County Public Schools placed more than 1,800 signs on more than 900 different doors at schools in the district.

“That seems kind of odd,” said Stoddard, “but truth be told that most of our police officers, our firefighters and our EMS people have never been inside of all of our schools. So, if we can tell them the door numbers to go to, it makes the response much quicker.”

The signs have been placed on the inside and outside of each door.

Safety security committee

Safety and Security Committees have been set up at each school, seeing as how every school has different problems.

“We wanted to establish a security committee at every one of our schools because they have the vested interest in bringing forward different things that are taking place at that school and within that community,” said Stoddard.

The future

More improvements are in the works. For one, the school system intends to work with the database company the county uses for student ID cards to expand their purpose.

“We’ve been asking our partners to work with us to add a bar code reader onto the school buses. The vision is when our children get onto the school bus they can utilize their ID cards and scan on,” Stoddard said.

“The bus driver can see which kids are on the bus, which kids belong on the bus. But also the potential is there for parents to get an email to say their child has gotten on the bus.”

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