Md. school leaders to gather for school safety summit

WASHINGTON — Leaders from every public school district in Maryland have been invited to a statewide school safety summit later this month.

Members of the law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency management communities are also expected to take part. The March 22 meeting in Annapolis will include training and discussion.

One goal is to identify school safety strengths and weaknesses. “And then, when we identify those gaps, (determine) what are the next steps moving forward to make sure we can close those gaps collectively,” said Ed Clarke, executive director of the Maryland Center for School Safety, during a visit this week to Leonardtown High School in St. Mary’s County.

The center was established in 2013 after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s one of 20 centers in the country, but it’s unique because it’s located in the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, one of the nation’s fusion centers.

This video explains what fusion centers do:

“Where we are … we’re able to get immediate, accurate and timely information in terms of school safety and terrorist-related concerns. Then, what we do in turn is immediately take that information out after it’s vetted, and share it with all 24 school districts here in Maryland and our private school partners,” Clarke said.

“We hold a weekly school safety conference call among all of our partners, law enforcement (and) our school safety-security directors. Sometimes, we’ll have school counselors or school psychologists; at times, we’ll have local state’s attorneys that are on the call,” he said.

Since the deadly mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Clarke said his office has been “inundated” with reports from all around Maryland of online school threats.

“We have seen a significant increase in these social media threats, these school shooting threats,” he said.

A supplemental budget submitted last week by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan includes an extra $5 million for the Maryland Center for School Safety. He has also proposed spending an additional $125 million on school security upgrades, such as new doors and windows, cameras, metal detectors and panic buttons.

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