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Speak Out: How Much Security Should Montgomery County Schools Have?

A school safety meeting is scheduled for Jan. 16.

How much security is the right amount of security for Montgomery County’s public school students?

Following the shock of December’s tragic shootings in Newtown, CT, parents and family members of students at Bradley Hills Elementary in Bethesda have written to county leaders asking for security improvements at the elementary school’s temporary location, according to a Wednesday Gazette report.

Students and teachers at Bradley Hills currently are housed at the Radnor Center, while the school undergoes modernization, scheduled for completion in August.

“Our school has no security system in place and our front door remains unlocked throughout the school day with no mechanism for screening visitors,” parents wrote, according to the report.

While county spokesman Dana Tofig said he could not comment on specific security measures at individual schools, he did say that each school has specific security measures in place, and staff and teachers are trained for emergency procedures.

“All doors other than the main entrance are supposed to be kept locked during the school day,” he told The Gazette. “There is signage on the front door instructing all visitors to report to the main office.”

Community members across the county have reflected on the security of public schools since the Newtown tragedy:

“As a mom of 4, I can't imagine a greater loss for a parent such as a senseless act like this that snatches away innocent lives,” said Wheaton Patch blogger Frances Frost. “As for our elementary schools, I feel like my children are relatively safe, although the portables do make me a little nervous. But I realize that no-one can be 100% safe all the time and I pray that every day my children come home safely."

The Montgomery County Council of PTAs has scheduled a school safety forum for 7 p.m. on Jan. 16 at the Carver Auditorium in Rockville. Speakers will include Doug Steel from MCPS security and Capt. Luther Reynolds, Montgomery County 5th police district commander, according to Susan Burkinshaw, a health and safety chairwoman of the organization. County council members and Police Chief Tom Manger may also be in attendance, she said.

Do you think locked doors are enough security for Montgomery County’s students? What issues would you like to discuss at the school safety meeting?

Rob J January 04, 2013 at 11:29 AM
Easy...an armed officer in every school. No less. We arm security officers in banks, department stores etc. Which is really more valuable, merchandise/money or our kids? Enough trying to make a point about firearms, they are here like it or not and the only protection is someone who can counter that threat with a firearm of their own. This should have been done years ago.
Joe Galvagna January 04, 2013 at 12:15 PM
No amount of security is enough when protecting our children and the people that dedicate their lives to teaching them. Any and all measures should be taken to protect our prized possession our chidden. I think Montgomery Co should cancel some other entitlement program and revert that money to more security to our schools. Con has shown that just locked doors or buzzers are not enough. Yes I agree with armed uniformed security guards in every school. Montgomery Co gives away more money to people that do not deserve it how about taking some of that money and putting it in our future, our children. Our children are way more important than any and all PC programs the Co wastes money on. I am sure there are a lot of retired law enforcement personnel in the Co that would love to have a job guarding our/their children verse trips for Co officials to some third world country to honor a sister Co crap. Wake up Montgomery Co it could happen here. These type of crazy people are everywhere. Copy cats are everywhere as has already been seen. Let's not close the barn door after the cows are already loose PLEASE ACT NOW!!!!!!
Jeff Hawkins January 04, 2013 at 01:59 PM
No easy answer for this? Not even sure what it could be. It will most likely take multiple steps though. Clearly the school mentioned that has "no" security is an issue. And the statement made by the County spokesman that there is signage posted that all people "must report to the main office" is laughable in todays world. In reality I'm not sure if anything can truly protect "all"....
Matt Adler January 04, 2013 at 06:33 PM
As a graduate of Montgomery County Public Schools, I can say that my own schools definitely needed better security- even when it came to more mundane things like school fights. However, I am against the idea of arming teachers like the NRA has suggested. I've also worked as a teacher and find the idea reprehensible and potentially very dangerous. Why is it so hard for us as Americans to get it into our heads that gun control can be effective, especially when it works so well in other industrialized nations?
Dawn Greeley January 04, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Unfortunately armed guards, while it might make us feel better, won't solve this complex problem. There were armed guards at Columbine High School, President Reagan had the most highly trained and focused "armed guards" in the country when he was shot by a deranged assassin and there was certainly no shortage of armed guards at Fort Hood. The only thing that can truly diminish the likelihood of another mass shooting is to take REAL steps to ban semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazine clips and to make sure that ALL guns can be registered and traced and that all gun owners are trained in the responsible use and storage of their weapons. Guns are with us "like it or not" but assault weapons are only with us if we as citizens continue to tolerate the incredibly lax gun laws that we have in this country. No other industrialized nation in the world has few restrictions on guns and no other nation in the world has more gun violence than we do. This is no coincidence. We must all take responsibility for the presence of miltary style weapons on our streets and we must all urge our elected leaders to do something meaningful to stop it. We can never eliminate all gun violence, but there overwhelming empirical evidence from other nations that stronger laws can greatly diminish it.
Jeff Hawkins January 04, 2013 at 06:45 PM
Well said Dawn...
Joe Thomas January 04, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Great idea but where are the "armed officers" going to come from? At no time are there 183 police officers working at one time in the county. The others are on their days off, waiting to come to work, or have just gotten off work. That would mean that the county would have to pay 183 officers at their overtime rate to sit in the front of a school. Since the overtime rate averages to about $60 an hour you are talking about 7 hours of protection X $60 an hour X 183 which equals about $77,000 a day. Do you really think that the county is willing to pay for that? Do you think that the taxpayers are willing to have their taxes raised to pay for that? I doubt it.
Chris January 04, 2013 at 08:01 PM
The place to fight crime is in the community, not school hallways. Guns are a symptom of fear, not security.
Jeff Hawkins January 04, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Rob: Which entrance do you station the guard at? Would the suspect go right at the guard or find another route? What happens if the guard goes down with the "first" shot... then what? What kind of firepower will the guard carry? What if the guard is out sick or on vacation? Will we need back-up guards? Too many variables involved to make guards a consistant deterent.
Beth January 05, 2013 at 04:28 PM
A multi-pronged approach to safety is what we need. MCPS is constantly modernizing school entries (but money is tight and education doesn't often get the green it needs to handle the growth in terms of numbers and needs). It's time for Montgomery County to get behind the Demand a Plan movement (http://www.demandaplan.org/), which will ask for federal and state level bans on assault weapons. Here in Montgomery County, we need to demand full funding by the MCPD and the County Council of the School Resource Officer program and we need to continue to push MCPS and County Council for Capital Improvement funding for safety modernizations (both entryway and office configurations but also software including the visitor management systems). Come out to the County Executive's town hall forums (http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/apps/News/press/PR_details.asp?PrID=9089) and tell him what we need!
Darla Tagrin January 06, 2013 at 04:41 PM
The only thing that ensures is that the guard would be the first one to be shot.
Andrew March 08, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Why don't you go live in those other countries you hold in such high regard for their gun laws.
Andrew March 08, 2013 at 01:36 PM
Fear would be the symptom, and don't you think that someone may have a little fear of ROBBING YOU if they thought you may be carrying a gun to protect yourself with. Criminals know they have the upper hand in areas where guns are not permitted by the law abiding citizens. You fight crime where crime is.
Andrew March 08, 2013 at 01:41 PM
Roaming patrol give's an armed officer the element of suprise, and the intruder the uncertainty of the location of the officer. It's not too much to ask that the one tasked with protecting a school do that by patroling the school. Hope that helps answer your question Joe.

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