Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Carroll County Public School's Follow-Up

Yesterday I talked about the email that we received from Carroll County Public Schools discussing the ways that they are protecting our children.  I received a lot of feedback from friends a coworkers all stating about the same thing.  It was nonsense.  If I crazed lunatic is going to come into the school and commit an horrific act of violence, there are no rules or policies that are going to stop him (or her).

Late on Tuesday, we received a follow-up email from Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Guthrie that was not only honest, but very courageous.  It is not often that you get such sincerity from a bureaucratic.  I hope the Carroll County Public Schools office doesn't mind, but I'm going to repost his email.

In summary, Guthrie admitted just what we have been saying.  Short of a fortress, there is not much more that they can do to protect our children from violence such as the terrible shootings that occurred in Connecticut.  We can take measures to be cautious, but we cannot live in total fear.

Love your children.  Teach them to talk to teachers and to not be afraid to stand up for what they think is right.  Teach them to love one another.  Teach them not to hate.  But don't raise your children behind brick walls.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for the many emails and telephone calls I received since we first learned of the tragic events that took place last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  We all grieve with the families of the victims while at the same time wondering if our own children are safe while they are in school.       

Many of you offered suggestions for improving the security of schools while acknowledging its difficulty.  Schools are intentionally designed to be open and welcoming to the public as are our policies and school procedures.  Without major renovation our buildings cannot be transformed into fortress-like structures that will keep our children safe from those whose sole intent is to do them harm.  The reality is that no matter what we put into place, I cannot guarantee the safety of any child in school from a Sandy Hook Elementary type event. However, there are some things we can do to tighten up security at our schools.  

After meetings with staff and local law enforcement and conferring with principals, we will launch the following initiatives as soon as possible. Some of these items will require an additional allocation of funds from the County Commissioners.

Install a controlled, buzzer/camera entrance at each school where needed. 

Lock all other exterior doors – allow only key card access at selected doors.

Continue to conduct lock-down drills at each school for students and staff.

Provide "active shooter" training to school-based administration and staff.

Ask each principal to review school security procedures on a regular basis at staff meetings.

Consistently enforce the requirement for each school contracted employee to display their identification badge while on duty.

Require each school to issue badges for temporary employees that are date specific.

Develop a community communication protocol for principals to use when a threat is made to an individual school.

Enter into communications with local law enforcement agencies to facilitate an "Adopt a School" program that will increase a police presence at our schools.

Continue to encourage students to inform a school staff member or parent if they are aware of threats to the school or individual students.

Additionally, I wanted to make you aware that we have installed surveillance cameras at most of our  schools in both interior and exterior locations that can be viewed 24 hours per day on or off site by both school and central office personnel.  In addition, the camera system is configured to be compatible with local police departments so that, with permission, they can access each school's camera network.  By the end of the year we will have surveillance cameras installed in all schools.  Cameras are also installed on most of our school buses.  However, cameras alone will not protect our students. Should the need arise, they will allow for a more efficient and effective communication with law enforcement.  

As I stated previously, we have an excellent relationship with our various law enforcement agencies who provide us excellent service on both a routine and an emergency basis.  

Other suggestions I received include installing metal detectors at entrances, installing steel doors at school entrances, requiring visitors to provide driver's licenses to school staff while in the building, performing criminal background checks on school visitors – including parents, prohibiting classroom access to visitors – including parents, and employing school resource officers at each school.  These suggestions may have merit, but will require more analysis and funding than is possible in a short time frame.    

Thank you again for all of your suggestions and input.  I hope that you all are able to take time to rest over the upcoming holiday season and we all look forward to the filling the blank pages of a new year with good things.

Steve Guthrie 
Superintendent of Schools

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