MCPS: Our Commitment to Safety and Discipline in Montgomery County Public Schools

Montgomery County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Monique Felder issued the following community message on April 2, 2024:

“Dear Students, Staff and Families,

Welcome back, everyone! As we return from spring break, it’s crucial to address a pressing issue: the safety and well-being of every member of our school community. While overall students are following expectations, student behavior has been at the forefront in community discussions, among students and staff, and, lately, in the news. Discussions center on disrespect, student fights, bullying, and other inappropriate behavior.

Parents, staff, students and our community are concerned. So are we, and that’s why we have been working to reset expectations around the Montgomery County Public Schools Student Code of Conduct. MCPS stands firm in our dedication to upholding the principles outlined in the Code of Conduct, which includes consequences for prohibited behaviors. It’s important that, in addition to our staff, our community and students understand the expectations as well. We communicated this as an expectation for action with all school administrators prior to spring break and, while typically done, we have reminded them to revisit behavioral expectations and consequences for students and staff within the first few days after spring break.

What is the MCPS Student Code of Conduct?

Operationally, the MCPS Student Code of Conduct identifies a full range of prohibited behaviors. It outlines progressive consequences rooted in behavior intervention that should be rehabilitative, restorative, educational, and administered fairly. The code also outlines when a school principal must consider suspension and expulsion and when they are appropriate for the severity of any offense. Bottomline: It is an essential tool for maintaining a safe and conducive learning environment and takes a comprehensive approach to achieving this goal.

However, at its core, the Code of Conduct is about taking care of people – our students, staff, and the entire school community. By upholding the Student Code of Conduct, we are setting clear expectations for behavior while promoting respect, empathy, and inclusivity. Upholding the Student Code of Conduct provides a framework for students to understand the impact of their actions on others and encourages them to take responsibility for their behavior. When we reinforce the Student Code of Conduct, we send a powerful message to our students that their well-being matters and that we are committed to creating a positive and nurturing environment where everyone feels valued and supported.

Let’s be clear: a safe schoolhouse in which students and staff have a sense of security and belonging is essential so that all students and staff can teach and learn at high levels.

Beyond using the Code of Conduct, MCPS is taking many measures to provide for physical and emotional safety in schools and offices, such as:

Physical Safety Measures: MCPS takes various security measures, including locked exterior doors, security vestibules with mandatory check-in procedures, video surveillance, alarms, and ensured appropriate security personnel at all middle and high schools. Recently, we further enhanced security by adding fencing and gates, operationalizing hundreds of new cameras at elementary schools, and improving locking devices for classroom doors.

Security Measures: Continuous monitoring of school grounds and implementation of new security protocols by our school safety staff aim to ensure a safe learning environment for all students. This includes heightened monitoring of school bathrooms and other areas not covered by security cameras.

Police Partnerships: MCPS and local law enforcement have a strong partnership, and law enforcement personnel regularly review security and emergency procedures. We review our emergency operations plan annually and work in concert with the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety and School Safety Coordinator.

Comprehensive Training: All staff and administrators undergo annual training to heighten awareness of bullying, harassment, hate-bias incidents, and microaggressions. This training emphasizes the importance of inclusivity, respectful relationships, and the reporting structures expected of every staff member.

Reporting Mechanisms: We are auditing and enhancing reporting systems for instances of misconduct to ensure clarity and accessibility, including language translation services.

Partnerships: Collaboration with community organizations, parents, and guardians is vital in addressing issues of safety and inclusivity and other social-emotional supports for students.. Together, we can create a secure and welcoming environment for all students.

Supportive Communication: Informative letters and community meetings where as much verified and factual information as possible is shared. Student privacy law (FERPA) often prohibits the sharing of certain information. While this may understandably pose frustrations, particularly in contexts where transparency is desired, it’s crucial to recognize that these regulations are in place to uphold the safety and privacy rights of all students. Central services staff have and continue to evaluate protocols to support school-to-home communications for serious incidents.

For the future, we are also considering new tools such as vape detectors, weapons detection systems, and mandatory student and staff IDs to ensure students are where they are supposed to be. Comprehensive methods such as these can foster higher levels of safety and minimize incidents that violate the Student Code of Conduct.

Community involvement is crucial for successful school safety. When individuals, families, local businesses, law enforcement, and other stakeholders partner with schools to prioritize safety, effectiveness rises. Parents and caregivers can contribute to the overall safety culture of the school community by instilling values of respect, kindness, and responsibility in their children, fostering open communication, actively engaging with school policies, and promoting positive behaviors at home.

Should you have any questions about safety at your school, please contact your school principal.

Thank you for your continued support and collaboration in creating a safe environment for our educational community.

In service to children,

Monique Felder, Ph.D.
Interim Superintendent of Schools”

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