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Our community is deeply concerned, as are we, about student safety. In these stressful and uncertain times, Board members have noted some confusion in the community regarding the roles and responsibilities for Safety Advocates and School Resource Officers (SROs), known as Liaison Officers in our school system.
A Safety Advocate is a Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS) employee who provides a proactive means of meeting the needs of the students, staff, and community. Employing a wealth of professional expertise, the Safety Advocate serves as a student advocate and advisor. Rather than punish or suspend students, the Safety Advocate provides support and counsel to the total school community. Additionally, the Safety Advocate assists the staff and administration in maintaining a safe and orderly school environment that best facilitates academic achievement.
The Safety Advocate’s role is to help students make good choices and avoid activities that may result in harming themselves or others or criminal activity that might lead to arrest. Typically, Safety Advocates are retired law enforcement officers. Each high school has two full-time safety advocates. The six middle schools are served by three safety advocates.
We continue to work with the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office to provide a Liaison Officer to each of our high schools The Liaison Officers are armed deputies employed by the Sheriff’s Office. These officers also serve the elementary and middle schools in their high school’s feeder pattern. A supervisor, also employed by the Sheriff’s Office, provides support where needed.
The Board has also been asked what we are doing to keep students safe. The Board is working with the Board of County Commissioners to fund school construction projects to make buildings more difficult to access. We are providing additional training to staff on responding to an active shooter. In consultation with the Sheriff’s Office, we are exploring additional law enforcement supports in schools. CCPS also coordinates with the Health Department to provide mental health services to students in schools. At the State level, the Board, through the Maryland Associations of Boards of Education, is advocating for amendments to improve legislation to provide Maryland State Police resources to schools, as well as other safety measures.
As we, as a community, consider what is the next best thing we can do to keep our children safe in school, the fact is most gun deaths are accidental shootings or suicide. A majority of the Board believes more guns on school property increase those risks and thus do not support arming CCPS employees.
The Board will continue to consider how best to keep children in school safe, unafraid, welcome, and ready to learn.
Tracy H. McGuire, President
Calvert County Board of Education