With less than one month until school begins, the Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education unanimously voted 4-0, with member Marsha Herbert absent, to allow Superintendent Steven Lockard to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office in relation to the school resource officer program.
The signing is one more step forward in implementing the Safe to Learn Act of 2018, which was passed in the final moments of the 2018 General Assembly. In addition to the memorandum, Supervisor of School Security and Emergency Management Duane Williams also presented the first of what will be monthly implementation reports on the law.
“The new law has significant impact on policy and practice for security and mental health in our schools,” the report reads. “It also contains aggressive timelines that will be outlined in the report below. It is important to note that there is potential funding tied to several areas in the law that will be distributed through various channels. As details on potential funding become available, they will be incorporated into this report. Because the law is broad, this report will be provided on a monthly basis to keep the board abreast of our progress during the initial year of implementation.”
The report goes on to detail provisions under the law, and the county school system’s implementation status on each in relation to mental health; school safely assessment teams; school safety coordinators certification; school safety evaluations; emergency plans; adequate coverage and SROs; SRO training and curriculum; and school emergency drills.
While school board members did approve the memorandum, they had many questions on just what the implementation of the law, and the SRO program, would look like, as well of the role the officers would play in the schools.
Board Vice President Donna Sivigny asked about a provision under the school safety assessment teams that requires a policy on identification and intervention with students “who may pose a threat.”
“I’m trying to get my arms around what that really means,” Sivigny said, adding that it sounds like profiling.
Williams said it’s not looking to profile students, but rather to take a collaborative approach using wraparound services to help students who may be displaying warning signs or exhibiting risky behaviors.
The goal is to get supports in place to make students successful and get them the help they need, he said.
“We want these students to be successful. We want to intervene when appropriate,” Williams added.
Bob Lord, board president, asked about the model policy from the state, which is supposed to be rolled out Sept. 1. Lord asked if that was realistic.
Williams said he knows there have been a lot of meetings, and he believes the state is intent on meeting the timelines they’ve set out
“It’s way up there on the priority list,” Williams said.
For board member Devon Rothschild, some concerns remained over the how the SROs would be trained. She wanted to know if the officers would be trained before they were placed in schools in September.
Williams said officers who will be designated SROs and assigned to schools will have completed national SRO training by the start of the school year. But, Williams said, the SRO program will not be completely in place with designated officers in all of the high schools, and some schools will continue to be covered on an overtime basis as was done in the final months of the school year last year.
Those officers, he added, may or may not have that training in time for the year to begin. But, he said, that’s no different than the adopt-a-school program that has been in place for years.
Rothschild also wanted to clarify the role of sheriff’s deputies in the school, and how to handle a problem if one were to arise.
“What is the process for Carroll County Public Schools to make a complaint or request removal if there’s an SRO officer that just isn’t working out?” she asked.
Williams said if there were a concern, the complaint would go to him, and then to the officer’s supervisor or the division commander, and then possibly up the chain from there if it were a serious problem.
But, he said, he’s confident that the last thing the sheriff’s office wants is a problem with the program. Williams said he didn’t think an incident would rise to the level where an SRO would have to be removed from a school. Rather, he said, the issue would be addressed and handled.
“I have the utmost confidence in the sheriff and his command that they would work with us,” he added.
Rothschild also brought up concerns over an SRO’s role in the school in terms of when they would step in, and when an administrator would handle a situation.
Williams said discipline would be handled as it is now. In instances where law enforcement would have been called into a school to handle a situation, then an SRO would likely step in, he said.
“We certainly don’t want to undermine the principal’s authority in the building,” he said.
With other concerns taken care of, Sivigny said the only question that remains is if CCPS was prepared for the first day of school.
Williams said he and Kim Dolch, director of high schools for CCPS, have been working all summer with the sheriff’s office to make sure that when the doors open in September, they would be ready.
“I believe we are going to be absolutely fine on day one,” he said.