The recent tragedy at the Rite Aid facility that left four people dead and two wounded has heightened community concerns about school and workplace security in Harford County, perhaps most critically with regard to schools.
Is Harford County Public Schools doing enough to make students safe from violence, in particular from an active shooter or shooters coming to one of its 56 buildings where students are almost daily?
To be clear, HCPS isn’t the only organization responsible for implementing security measures and safety training in schools or workplaces in Harford County, but being responsible for 38,000 young people and more than 5,000 employees, it has the most at stake if something should go terribly wrong.
Fatal shootings at schools in Florida and Southern Maryland early this year at least got the HCPS leadership directly involved with local law enforcement and the county government to acknowledge more needed to be done on the safety and security front. That was a start, as was the decision to put police officers in the middle schools, which came out of those discussions.
We remain unconvinced, however, that HCPS has a comprehensive action plan for security and crisis response that is uniformly enforced and monitored, nor is development of such a plan being pursued with the necessary sense of urgency. Judging from some public comments at the most recent Board of Education meeting on Sept. 24, there are similar concerns in the community.
One parent of a high school student told the school board she fears for her daughter’s safety because it’s possible not everyone – students, teachers, other staff – is on the same page when it comes to reacting to a threat such as an active shooter.
Harford County Public Schools has been reviewing active assailant options-based courses across the nation that train individuals in the practice to choose a response of “run, fight or hide,” Jillian Lader, manager of communications for HCPS, wrote in an email responding to questions from The Aegis following the board meeting.
“...HCPS has also assembled a task force to determine what the best options are for our community to proceed with active assailant training in our school system,” Lader said. “That information will be shared with our community as soon as possible.”