Carroll County Public Schools will now have armed law enforcement presence in some schools.
“Effective Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the Security Plan places Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputies at various schools throughout the county,” a news release from the school system reads.
“These uniformed Deputies will not only interact with the students and faculty, but also act as a visible deterrent to any criminal activity. This Security Plan will improve safety and security for the remainder of this school year, while discussions on the feasibility of staffing a full School Resource Officer program can be explored.”
The cost of having the deputies at the schools will be covered by money allocated by the Board of County Commissioners, although the exact amount it will cost is unclear. Board President Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said in a phone interview following the announcement that the cost of adding an increased law enforcement presence to schools for the rest of the year will be around “a couple hundred thousand dollars,” though he did not have a specific number.
The announcement came on the same day as a school shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County in which two students were injured.
Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said he met with the commissioners and Sheriff Jim DeWees in the past week to talk about how to make schools safer.
“We formally sat down to discuss this last week and talked about phase one and phase two. Phase one would be what to do for the rest of the year and phase two would be for the subsequent years,” Guthrie said.
Phase one is the increase in law enforcement presence at schools. Phase one was set to begin Wednesday, but with classes being canceled that day due to expected inclement weather, the phase will begin when schools reopen.
“These police officers will actually be stationed at schools,” he said.
Guthrie said law enforcement won’t be at every school, and declined to say how many or which schools would have officers. He said it would be a “significant” increase.
DeWees said they are not putting out to the public what the exact security plan will be or where officers will be stationed, adding, “It’ll vary.”
Prior to this decision, DeWees said the schools were always patrolled, with hundreds of check-ins.
“The schools are always, always a priority,” he said. “[This plan] gives us … dedicated deputies to maneuver around the schools and have a stronger presence.”
Frazier said the county is taking measures to make the schools safe and being “proactive” about it.
“This is a first step as far as putting officers in the schools,” he said, adding that the commissioners support the initiative and making schools safe.
Following the school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead, discussions around school safety have grown across the state and county.
Just prior to the Florida shooting, two Carroll delegates co-sponsored a Harford County lawmaker’s proposal that would allow local boards of education to vote to allow teachers to carry firearms in school — a move Carroll County school administrators and the sheriff oppose. DeWees has been advocating for full-time, armed school resource officers.
Parents in the community have also been vocal, including Westminster resident Erin Rutters, who has three children in CCPS and has been emailing county leaders repeatedly over the last month to ask for heightened security.
Rutters said she applauds the action the school system took Tuesday, though said she still didn’t think it was enough.
“If we’re going to do this, we need to do this the right way. We can’t do it haphazardly,” she said adding that there should be a law enforcement presence in all schools.
These types of tragedies can happen anywhere, she said, adding that they can’t just pick certain schools to have officers.
Rutters said she hoped continuing to reach out and put pressure on school and county officials to increase security in schools through more strict protocol with visitors and bringing in more school resource officers.
“There’s a strong concern from other parents in the community,” she said. “The funding is there. That can’t be en excuse anymore. They have the money. They need to do it.”