Message from Interim Superintendent Dr. McKnight Concerning School Safety in Montgomery County Public Schools

by Patrick Herron

Per Montgomery County Public Schools:
Dear MCPS Community,
I write to you today saddened by the horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. All of us continue to feel deep compassion for the families who lost loved ones and the community that will continue to feel the impacts of this devastating event for some time to come.

The details emerging concerning how the gunman gained access to the school and the police response have raised questions across the country about school safety. At this time, not all facts are known, but I want to share with you what we do in MCPS to ensure safety and to be prepared against these types of attacks. Our preparedness is rooted in four key areas.

  • Our Partnership with County Police and Allied Law Enforcement Partners
  • Police and MCPS Staff Training
  • Physical School Safety
  • Community Commitment to Safety

Our Partnership with County Police
We continually collaborate with the Montgomery County Police Department and all police agencies in the county to be ready to respond to any incident that threatens staff and students. Our new agreement for our school Community Engagement Officers is an excellent example of this robust partnership.

The questions now being asked about the police response during the school shooting in Texas, and specifically, the time it allegedly took to enter the classroom, have prompted a conversation with our police partners. We have since reaffirmed with Montgomery County Police that their policy and training regarding an active shooter situation  is that the first responding officer(s) would immediately move to preserve life. This is accomplished by actively engaging any suspect who may demonstrate imminent harm to any student or staff member inside or outside any school in Montgomery County. Our allied law enforcement partners also support this approach.  

Police and MCPS Staff Training
As part of our collaboration with the Montgomery County Police Department, we will continue to conduct training exercises in schools that prepare for active shooter scenarios. Understanding that our school campuses have external facilities, such as athletic stadiums and relocatable classrooms, we are now enhancing our training exercises to specifically prepare for an emergency anywhere on school grounds. We will provide additional training this summer for MCPS security staff that focuses on response to emergency situations, such as an active shooter. This is training previously announced in our February 10 student well-being and safety report to the Board of Education. All staff training will cover not only response during a crisis, but also awareness measures to avoid threats before they occur.

Physical School Safety
Let me be clear; the expectation in MCPS is that all exterior doors are locked, at all times. It is important to also understand that the majority of our schools have security vestibules through which any visitor must enter the building. Visitors must press a button, appear on a security camera and cannot enter until a staff member asks them their purpose for coming to the school. Once inside, they must go through the school’s main office and complete a sign-in process through our Visitor Management System.

For the very small number of schools that have not yet had security vestibules installed, there is a locked exterior door and the requirement for check-in through the Visitor Management System. We are also adjusting our processes to have enhanced security check-ins at these schools or at any school with many relocatable classrooms.

Community Commitment to Safety
A safe school environment has always been and continues to be a priority for MCPS. Students and staff must feel safe and cared for physically and emotionally in order to be able to teach and learn at high levels. We train throughout the school year for crises by practicing our Lockdown, Shelter-in-Place and Evacuation procedures. Everyone in an MCPS building knows to lock doors, close blinds, remain quiet and follow the direction of administrators. It is important that we all know our roles in times of crisis. This means training and being prepared to follow safety procedures during an emergency or crisis to keep us all safe.

We also avoid crises by adhering to the phrase, “If you see something, say something.” This means telling a trusted adult, making a report to administrators or police if you see something suspicious or if you are aware of a threat being made in person or online. Our police partners have the skills and training to investigate these suspected threats and determine if they are real. In this, we keep each other safe and our schools free from the type of violence that has so deeply affected the community of Uvalde, Texas.

Violence has become more frequent in today’s society, even in schools, but I want you to understand how important safety is to me and to everyone in MCPS. We commit to continued readiness, preparedness and review of all that we do to be safe. With your partnership, we will be a safer community.

Sincerely,

Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D.

Interim Superintendent of Schools

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