- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
In wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman entered an elementary school and killed 26 people, Charles County Public Schools and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office have come together to review current safety practices.
Superintendent James E. Richmond said after he heard the news Friday, he called Sheriff Rex W. Coffey to arrange a meeting. The two meet each quarter and additionally as situations, such as the Connecticut tragedy, arise.
Richmond said the meeting was to rehash current safety practices and determine what can be done differently, if anything.
Currently, the sheriff’s office has a police officer, known as a school resource officer, at each of the middle and high schools. The officers report to their schools every day and also are assigned to serve the elementary feeder schools for their school.
In light of the recent tragedy, officers will increase their presence at the elementary schools.
“Mr. Richmond and I spoke throughout the weekend, and we met first thing on Monday morning to review active shooter situations,” Coffey said. “I am a father and I have a 5-year-old grandson, and I know nothing is more precious to us than our children. We have always been committed to the safety of all our students, and it’s why we took measures to assign officers full time to all of our high schools and middle schools. Those officers also routinely check in and walk through our elementary schools.”
According to information provided by the school system, some safety measures in the schools include every classroom having a telephone and a weather radio, all schools having two-way radios for communication with bus drivers and the school system conducting safety assessments at each school every year.
More information on safety practices can be found at the school system’s website, www.ccboe.com.
The first line of defense when it comes to school safety, Richmond said, is “Good communication and good visibility on everyone’s part.”
Richmond said while the schools already are doing so, he had central office staff reiterate to administrators to maintain high visibility at their schools.
He said it is important for teachers, students, staff and anyone who sees or hears something that may be suspicious to “report it.”
“This week, we’ve had a ‘soft presence’ at our elementary schools to ease the minds of parents and remind them that we do care and will do the best we can to keep our children safe,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Diane Richardson said.
Richmond and Coffey composed a letter that was sent to parents and guardians Monday.
In the letter, the two expressed their condolences to the Sandy Hook Elementary School community and all those affected by the tragedy.
When it comes to safety in Charles County, the letter states, “We want to reassure you that safety and security are a priority in all of our schools, and we are dedicated to providing a safe and secure learning environment each and every day for our students and staff.”
The letter goes on to explain that each school has plans in place for emergency situations and routine drills are in place.
The letter explains the role of school resource officers and the heightened presence they will take for elementary schools.
“This week, we will have an increased presence of our officers at elementary schools. While no amount of planning can guarantee that a tragedy such as this will not occur, we work together and we are doing all we can to keep students and staff safe while at school,” the letter states.
Richmond said Tuesday that the schools are as safe as he can make them “every day.”
He said that everything he can do, he will to ensure safe schools.
The letter also states that school counselors, psychologists and trained school system staff are on hand to assist with any psychological affects the shootings Friday had on children.
Information on how to talk with children about the events was also listed in the letter.
On its website, the school system posted its current safety practices, emergency preparedness procedures and a copy of the joint letter.
Private schools are taking a second look at what their schools are doing, as well.
At St. Peter’s School in Waldorf, Principal J.R. West said that while the school has safety plans in place and conducts drills regularly, after the incident in Connecticut, he put a call out to all parents that anyone with a risk management or security background interested in becoming part of a task force on school safety should contact him.
West said the task force would be responsible for looking over current practices and discussing what measures should be in place that might not already be.
West said 17 people have already contacted him. The first meeting is scheduled for the beginning of January.