School Safety Through the Eyes of a Teacher and Emergency Management Professional
By David Wilson, Candidate for Maryland State Senate (LD 15)
The safety of so many students in our public schools is not an issue that can be resolved by soundbite solutions. It requires an approach involving the attention of students, parents, teachers, administrators, law enforcement, mental health professionals, clergy, and legislators.
Real solutions require conducting routine, scenario-driven drills, evaluated against an effective standard, and providing honest results to those in positions of responsibility. And those responsible must be held accountable!
Following the Florida school shooting, the MCPS Superintendent sent a message to parents and teachers, basically stating that your children are safe because we have “access controls” and “surveillance cameras.” The message also included a short video that portrayed what an effective response to an active intruder should look like. Unfortunately, the actual level of response does not reflect the same standard.
My son attends a school in Montgomery County and as a part-time substitute teacher in the county, I see a variety of school facilities on a regular basis. Importantly, as a business owner -- I’m an emergency management professional -- I see the world and our schools through the eyes of the bad guy. What I see deeply concerns me. I recently shared those concerns with MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith.
In my opinion, teachers and administrators who care deeply about their students have been put in a terrible position. Leadership at many levels is lacking. The standards and procedures intended to respond to active intruder situations are not clear. The drills are not realistic. Training frequency does not support proficiency. The inspection/observation feedback provides minimal value. And the physical security deficiencies – the inability to quickly lock classroom doors or cover windows – may have a deadly result.
This of course is not a complete list of how to fully protect our students from horrible acts of violence at school. Much work needs to be done and it will take time, but as an emergency management professional, a teacher and a parent, I know the importance of these basic steps. Let’s quickly get the 90% solution by doing the basics really well. And let’s do it now!