Montgomery County Officials Talk School Safety After Texas Shooting

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A week after A gunman at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 students and two teachers, Montgomery County officials discussed school system safety protocols for active shooter situations and other threats during a press conference on Wednesday.

Acting Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight said the parents had made it known that they felt uneasy about the safety of their children since the shooting, adding that leaders had to deal with “the anxiety and fear that our community felt.”

“I will be the first to tell you as Superintendent of Public Schools for Montgomery County, [safety] is absolutely my priority,” McKnight said. “It’s our top priority.

McKnight, along with other system administrators, county council and police officials, detailed the security measures used at county schools. Every entry point to the county’s 209 schools is locked down. Visitors must be notified and register before they can enter a school. The school system and county police departments signed a contract in April to bring officers back to schools and outline how they officers respond to school-related incidents.

Officials also pointed to the school system’s expansion of mental health services into its secondary schools. Students called for further expansion of related programs.

DC-area schools to tighten security following Texas school shooting

Montgomery County’s school system, which is the largest in Maryland, has more school safety officers than any other in the state – with 252 of the state’s 942, according to Maryland School Safety Dashboard. This is followed by the Prince George County school system, which has 240 trained officers.

Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones noted that county officers have had active shooter training since a mass shooting took place at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999. Since then , these trainings have been improved, he said, adding that detectives “do a lot of legwork” talking to people who may be involved in threats and partnering with the school system to determine a response. And in the event of an active shooter, officers are trained to enter and eliminate a threat, even in areas such as portable classrooms outside of traditional school buildings.

“We don’t stop evaluating. We don’t stop training,” Jones said. “We keep planning for the worst case scenario.”

DC Students Call for Gun Control; schools focus on safety after Texas shooting

The school system also revised its safety plan after a 17-year-old allegedly shot a 15-year-old in the Magruder High School bathroom in January. using a “ghost gun” – a firearm assembled from parts and sold in kits on the internet without background checks. A report including an assessment of the school system’s handling of this incident has been submitted to public school safety officials for review.

Wednesday’s security update also came as a Maryland law went into effect prohibiting the sale, receipt and transfer of ghost weapons. Both county executive Marc Elrich (D) and County Council Chairman Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large) pointed to legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly in their remarks, adding that the federal government must pass a similar article.

“When we lose a student to violence and guns, we lose that battle no matter where it started,” Elrich said. “We have to do a better job. We must learn to get involved before it is too late.

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