Preparedness & Recovery

In 'Full Review' of Safety and Security Plans, Harford, Md., Schools Look to Implement Active Shooter Drills

There are 54 public schools in Harford County, and each one has a critical incident plan 'developed, vetted and approved' by the office of safety and security.

by David Anderson, The Aegis, Bel Air, Md. / February 27, 2018

(TNS) - Harford County Public Schools is conducting a “full review” of its safety and security plans in the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting deaths of 17 students and staff at a Florida high school, the county Board of Education president said Monday evening.

As part of that review, the new safety and security coordinator for HCPS said he is working on instituting an active shooter training program at every county public school.

“Please be advised that we are conducting a full review of our safety and security plans as well as our training to ensure we are maximizing our efforts to prevent a tragedy,” said board President Joseph Voskuhl, after the board held a moment of silence for victims of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., at the start of the board’s first meeting since the tragedy.

Voskhul said such incidents “cause us to reflect on our practices in Harford County Public Schools.”

There are 54 public schools in Harford County, and Voskuhl said each one has a critical incident plan “developed, vetted and approved” by the office of safety and security.

He also outlined the procedures for visiting a school, where the doors are locked during the school day. Visitors must, once granted entry, proceed to the front office, show identification, sign in and wear a visitor’s badge while in the building.

Voskuhl said the school system works “very closely” with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and municipal police departments on safety and security matters. Those agencies also provide school resource officers assigned to elementary, middle and high schools.

“We are truly grateful to the Sheriff’s Office and the police officers in the three towns in Harford County,” Voskuhl said.

Donoven Brooks, coordinator of safety and security for HCPS, who has been on the job eight weeks, said he has been reviewing critical incident response plans with school principals and, more recently, investigating several potential threats against schools that have surfaced on social media following the Florida shootings.

The latest to be investigated occurred Monday morning when a Snapchat threat was made against Havre de Grace High School, the principal wrote on Twitter Monday morning. Police said they were investigating the message, which contained “threatening language” toward the school community, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Two Edgewood High School students were arrested and charged as adults Friday after they wrote a false threatening message in an attempt to have school canceled, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office said.

Police said the students wrote a threatening message on the top of a classroom desk at the school and circulated an image of the message digitally. A student reported the message to officials, prompting an investigation by the school resource officer, police said.

During a presentation to the school board Monday evening, Brooks said he is laying the groundwork to bring an active shooter training program to HCPS.

“Through the leadership of the superintendent [Barbara Canavan], we know that it is time to, not only look at, research, but adopt one of the programs,” he said.

Brooks said he is working with the superintendent to put together a task force made up of “stakeholders on the ground,” such as school administrators, teachers and school-based staff.

He said he has been visiting schools, reviewing critical incident, evacuation and emergency management plans and was “pretty satisfied” with what he saw.

Brooks, a veteran of the Air Force and the Baltimore City School Police, began working with Harford County Public Schools Jan. 2, succeeding former safety and security head Robert Benedetto who retired at the end of 2017.

Baltimore Sun reporters Talia Richman and Jessica Anderson contributed to this report.


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