School entrances, visitor systems, cameras improved drastically
As a result of the tragic and repeated school shootings that have occurred across the country, MCPS revamped the setup of public school security. The improvements focus on school infrastructure as well as emergency strategies.
Junior Jessica Llewellyn said she noticed positive improvements in the new security system, but still has doubts about their effectiveness. “I don’t think the school would know exactly what to do if a tragic situation like a school shooting actually happened, no one can really know,” Llewellyn said.
According to an email sent by MCPS Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman, five facility and technology elements of security will be put into effect. First, the upgrading of “existing access control systems for all school main entrances.” Second, the implementing of “new visitor management systems for all schools to screen visitors through state and national databases.” Third, the “installation of controlled access entryways in an additional 16 schools.” Fourth, providing “new, more comprehensive safety plans for each school.” The fifth is the “installation of security cameras at elementary schools.”
Students have specifically noticed the appearance of new, big, blue doors throughout the hallways. Junior Max Greenfeld said he feels the same as before, when the doors did not exist. “I feel it would be just as easy for someone to walk in even if we add more doors,” Greenfeld said.
Security team leader Chris Pucciarelli said the doors are closed down for school events. “We usually close them for sports games or school dances so students are not walking around in different parts of the school,” Pucciarelli said.
Junior Leah Bloshteyn said she noticed the difference in how visitors have to go through the main office of the school building in order to enter. “This new system makes me feel safer, the main entrance is more protected than before,” Bloshteyn said.
Zuckerman also said that through a partnership with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), all staff and students will be trained on new active attacker protocols. “Principals received an overview of these new protocols at August training sessions, and they will receive additional training in active assailant protocols at upcoming sessions in September and October,” Zuckerman said.
As stated by MCPS in another email, steps have been taken to address bullying as well as mental health. The measures taken against bullying include “streamlined process for reporting incidents of bullying”; “training for all employees on preventing and reporting bullying”; and “harassment and intimidation and guidelines regarding student gender identity matters.” Regarding mental health, MCPS has provided various services like, “suicide prevention training for students at all middle and high schools” and a “behavioral threat assessment training for staff.”
Zuckerman also addressed the recent arrest of an MCPS school bus operator, Etienne Kabongo, who was charged with sexual abuse of a student with special needs in August. In addition to the employee training on child abuse prevention, Zuckerman presented overviews of personal body safety lessons for parents. “What [Kabongo] did was abhorrent and deplorable. As a district, we must continue to do everything within our power to protect our students,” Zuckerman said.