By Sarah Ridenour
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
More than ten people voiced their concerns about safety in Baltimore County Public Schools at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
After the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week, parents, board members, and others came to the meeting to speak about how to prevent possible incidents in the future.
The interim superintendent, Verletta White, outlined the safety features that Baltimore County Public Schools already have in place, such as cameras in the schools and office sites, a check-in system to identify visitors, safety drills, strict weapons policies, and school resource officers.
“There is no way to prevent all acts of violence, but we can certainly do everything that we can,” White said.
Josie Shaffer, the student member of the board, said as a student she could identity with the victims and survivors of the Florida shooting, but she said she and her fellow classmates should not be scared to go to school.
“As students, we have the right to get our education without constantly fearing that someone with an assault rifle will enter the building,” Shaffer said. “Something has to change.”
Shaffer also asked for the board members to support the students attending the upcoming March for Our Lives in Washington on March 24, saying that it is important for the adults in the school system to show their support for the kids who need their help.
“Show that you are listening to the students in our system, and all over the country, that are now using their voice to say that enough is enough,” Shaffer said.
Roger Hayden, an at-large member of the school board, suggested adding more school resource officers, or SRO’s, into the schools, saying that what they have now is not enough to keep students and staff protected. Hayden said this was a motion he originally made in the budget meeting, but was shot down, and asked the board to reconsider.
Just last week, Loch Raven High School was put on lockdown after officials say a 14-year-old student brought a pellet gun into the school. According to police, an SRO was alerted of a student carrying a gun, and the school went on lockdown to locate them.
“I commend the way that BCPS, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the Loch Raven students, teachers, administrators, and community members handled the situation that occurred,” said the president of Baltimore County student council Jake Turner. “Fortunately, no one was hurt, but that does not mean that we will be so lucky next time. Something needs to be done within our schools to keep us safe.”
Turner said there needs to be more support staff and resources available for students with mental health needs to prevent violent acts in schools.
“Our health as students is more important than our grades and our test scores,” Turner said. “We need to continue our efforts against bullying in schools and reinforce that there is no shame in having a mental health need, just as there is no shame in having a physical ailment.”
He added that while schools conduct drills for students and staff to practice what to do in an emergency situation, those drills need to be gone over in more detail, and in some cases altered to assure maximum safety.
“A child cannot learn if he or she is scared,” White said. “We are going to remain ever vigilant in our practical efforts to ensure student safety.”