St. Mary’s County, MD – In a joint effort to ensure the safety and security of students, St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office have officially renewed their School Resource Officer (SRO) and Adopt-A-School programs. J. Scott Smith, Superintendent of Schools, and Sheriff Steve Hall signed the “A Community Partnership for Safe and Secure Schools” agreement and Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday, May 10, 2023.
The agreement represents a commitment to the community and, most importantly, to the students. “Student safety and the security of our schools is a bedrock expectation of our community and can only be achieved by a proactive and collaborative relationship between St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Hall emphasized.
The renewal of the agreements marks a significant step forward in creating a safe, secure, and nurturing learning environment. Both organizations understand the importance of working together to ensure the well-being of students. “These agreements are a public acknowledgment of our shared responsibility,” Superintendent Smith affirmed.
As part of the continued efforts to enhance school security, Sheriff Hall, along with Michael Wyant, Chief of Safety and Security for St. Mary’s County Public Schools, and Charles Eible, School Safety Coordinator, provided an update on current and future school security initiatives. These initiatives include hiring, supervising, and deploying 18 new full-time uniformed safety and security assistants for each elementary school. The additional personnel will supplement the existing safety and security assistants in all secondary schools starting in August 2023.
During the discussion, the review of physical security infrastructure and procedures in all St. Mary’s County Public Schools was emphasized. Several key updates were mentioned, including security vestibule enhancements, exterior door monitoring, and visitor management. Electronic access control and classroom door locks will also be implemented, along with security window laminate for exterior and interior windows and doors. Measures such as weapons abatement and scanning, public safety radio communications, and school key access for law enforcement responders will be strengthened.
Other security improvements highlighted include public address systems, first aid stations equipped with AEDs, stop the bleed kits, evacuation chairs, and narcan. Moreover, security video surveillance systems will be upgraded, and student outreach programs will be expanded. Background screening protocols for school employees and volunteers will also be reinforced to ensure the safety of students.
The School Resource Officer (SRO) program, which has been in place since the 1998-1999 school year, plays a crucial role in maintaining a secure learning environment. SROs act as mentors, teachers, and law enforcement resources for both students and staff. They collaborate with school faculty to address safety concerns effectively. Each SRO is certified by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and is qualified to teach the middle school D.A.R.E. curriculum through Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) America.
Originally implemented in 1998-1999, the SRO program assigned a deputy to each of the three public high schools in St. Mary’s County. It expanded during the 2005-2006 school year with the addition of two deputies who split their time between the four public middle schools. More recently, in the 2019-2020 school year, two additional deputies were added, ensuring that every county public high school and middle school has a dedicated SRO.
In addition to the SRO program, St. Mary’s County Public Schools also benefits from the Adopt-A-School Program. This program provides mentorship and additional law enforcement support to schools without a direct SRO presence. Deputies from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office volunteer to participate in the Adopt-A-School program, “adopting” elementary schools to foster positive relationships with students.
Participating deputies will receive formal professional development training to ensure the effectiveness of the Adopt-A-School program. They will also engage in quarterly coordination meetings with the St. Mary’s County Public Schools’ Department of Safety and Security. This collaborative effort aims to enhance the overall safety and security of the adopted schools.
The commitment to school safety in St. Mary’s County extends beyond the presence of law enforcement personnel. It encompasses a holistic approach that prioritizes the well-being of students and provides them with a supportive educational environment.
The continued partnership between St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office underscores the shared responsibility in safeguarding the educational community. By working together, they are able to address potential security concerns promptly and implement proactive measures that prioritize the welfare of students, teachers, and staff.
Parents and community members can take solace in the knowledge that St. Mary’s County is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment. The renewal of the School Resource Officer and Adopt-A-School programs, along with the comprehensive security enhancements discussed, demonstrates the proactive stance taken by the school district and law enforcement to protect the well-being of students.
The partnership between St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the Sheriff’s Office serves as a model for other communities seeking to enhance school safety. By prioritizing collaboration, communication, and ongoing evaluation, they have created a blueprint for fostering a secure educational environment.
As the new initiatives and security measures are implemented, it is essential for parents, students, and staff to remain vigilant and actively participate in maintaining a safe environment. Reporting any suspicious activities or concerns to the appropriate authorities is crucial in ensuring the continued success of these programs.
The commitment to school safety demonstrated by St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office sets a positive example for the entire community. Together, they are building a foundation of security and support that allows students to thrive academically, emotionally, and socially.
In an ever-changing world, where the safety of educational institutions is paramount, the collaborative efforts in St. Mary’s County stand as a testament to the dedication and commitment to providing a secure learning environment for all students. Through ongoing partnerships and proactive measures, they are paving the way for a brighter and safer future.