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Officials praise new school safety program in Carroll County

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When Master Deputy Jeremy Holland speaks to high school students about the effects of drug abuse, his comments not only reflect his knowledge of the law, but also his experiences with abusers.

"We had a man saying his house was full of zombies and that they were there to eat him," Holland told students, some of whom reacted with shocked expressions, in a recent health class at Century High School.

Holland, a seven-year veteran of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office and school resource officer for high schools in the northern part of the county, addressed students as part of Carroll County Public Schools' Adopt-a-School Program, which was started at the beginning of this academic year.

The program's goal is to increase school security by having officers check in daily, as well as to enhance health and safety instruction through the participation of police officers.

Under the program, there have been more than 1,800 police check-ins with county schools, ranging from walk throughs to class instruction, according to Larry Faries, coordinator of school security for the school system.

"It's been incredible," he said of the program's first year. "It couldn't be going any better."

Police with the Sheriff's Office and municipal departments participate in the program with the goal of visiting a school in the county daily.

Holland and Master Deputy Worthington Washington are assigned to county high schools, while every other school in the county has an officer assigned specifically to that school.

County law enforcement agencies increased patrol checks to county schools in January of 2013 following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy, and Adopt-A-School has continued to stress those daily checks while also including officers in health classes for grades 2, 5, 7, 8 and high school health.

Steve Weatherholt, a health and physical education teacher at Century, said having Holland inside the classroom has been a plus.

"The biggest benefit, I think, is just the police presence," he said. "There has definitely been an increase in police presence [this year]."

Under the Adopt-a-School program, Holland and Washington have been teaching a three-day course of the effects of drug abuse as part of the high school Health 1 courses, a required, single-semester course mostly for freshman.

The first two days of the course include discussing the consequences and effects of alcohol and drug abuse, while the third day includes a mock trial of a student found to have marijuana inside the school building.

In his first year teaching, Holland said he's getting a lot out of the opportunity.

"It's been going great," he said. "Interacting with the kids has been very positive."

Although officers are only scheduled to teach the three-day course in Health 1 classes, Holland said teachers have requested officers to visit for other lessons.

Superintendent Steve Guthrie said he's been "very pleased" with the program in its first year and described it as a "wonderful model with limited resources."

"It doesn't beat having a school resource officer," he said. "That would be the ultimate, but that simply, in the resources we have available and the needs at all of our schools, is neither practical or needed."

Guthrie added the program would not be possible without the cooperation of local law enforcement, saying they have "really stepped up."

In addition to the Adopt-a-School program, the school system announced in January it would begin installing new visitor access systems at every school in the county in coming months.

This announcement follows a comprehensive security study performed by the Fallston Group, a Bel Air crisis management firm.

The school system has about $1.2 million in local and state funding available for the access system project.

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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