Enhancing School Safety: Worcester County Adopts Comprehensive Protocols
The safety of our students and school communities has become a paramount concern in today’s world. In response to such incidents, Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) in Maryland has recently announced a set of new school safety protocols based on the Standard Response and Reunification Protocols developed by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation.
The I Love U Guys Foundation’s Standard Response Protocol
Worcester County Public Schools has taken a proactive approach to enhance school safety by adopting the Standard Response and Reunification Protocols created by the I Love U Guys Foundation. This comprehensive approach emphasizes the importance of creating a common language among the school system, emergency services partners, and the school community. The foundation conducted training sessions with school administrators and emergency services partners to ensure that all staff members are well-versed in these protocols.
The Five School Safety Statuses
The heart of the Standard Response Protocol lies in its five school safety statuses: Hold, Secure, Lockdown, Evacuate, and Shelter. Each status is accompanied by a specific icon and directive, providing clear and consistent guidance to students, staff, and first responders. These protocols allow for flexibility in response to various crisis scenarios and ensure that everyone involved knows what action to take.
Hold: This status involves holding students in their current location while the situation is assessed.
Secure: Secure means securing the school’s perimeter to prevent access by unauthorized individuals while normal activities continue inside.
Lockdown: Lockdown is the most restrictive status, indicating that there is an imminent threat inside or near the school, and everyone must take cover and remain silent.
Evacuate: Evacuation procedures are implemented when it is safer to remove students and staff from the school building.
Shelter: Shelter status means that students and staff should seek protection from external hazards such as severe weather or environmental threats.
Standard Reunification Method (SRM)
In addition to the Standard Response Protocol, the Standard Reunification Method (SRM) is a critical component of the school safety strategy. SRM is a protocol designed to streamline and control the process of reuniting parents with their children in the event of a crisis that necessitates controlled student release. Circumstances that may require reunification include inclement weather, power outages, hazardous materials incidents, or other school crises.
- Notification: Parents and guardians are informed of the reunification process and what to expect.
- Parent/Guardian Expectations: Clear expectations are set for parents and guardians regarding their roles during reunification.
- How Reunification Works: The process of reunification involves checking in, confirming identification and custody rights, completing reunification cards, and safely reuniting students with their families.
Lessons from Past Tragedies: The Perry Hall High School Shooting
The 2012 shooting at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County serves as a poignant example of why comprehensive school safety protocols are essential. During the incident, a 15-year-old student opened fire in the school cafeteria at 10:45 am on the first day of school, injuring a 17-year-old student. The chaos and fear that ensued highlighted the need for clear communication, rapid response, and a coordinated effort to ensure the safety and accountability of students and staff.
In the aftermath of the Perry Hall shooting, several important lessons were learned:
- Clear Communication: Effective communication is crucial during a crisis. WCPS’s adoption of the Standard Response Protocol, which includes clear language and directives, enhances communication among all stakeholders, including parents.
- Teacher and Staff Response: Training and drills are key to ensuring that school staff can respond effectively in emergencies.
- Reunification Process: In the aftermath of the 2012 shooting at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County, the chaotic and unpredictable nature of the incident highlighted critical shortcomings in the school’s emergency response and reunification processes. The shooting occurred in the school cafeteria during lunch on the first day of classes, leading to a harrowing situation where some of the school’s students evacuated while others went into lockdown. This division made it extremely challenging to establish student and staff accountability and ensure their safety.
To address these issues and improve the emergency response protocols, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) implemented “Rally Point Drills.” These drills were implemented as a direct response to the Perry Hall incident and aimed to create a more organized and controlled reunification process in the event of a crisis.
The primary duties of school personnel revolve around ensuring reunification and accountability. Managing the task of accounting for hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of students, teachers, and staff members simultaneously is a significant challenge. Within the school environment, numerous parents, workers, substitutes, and various other individuals may be present. Achieving complete and accurate accounting under these circumstances is, in reality, an exceedingly demanding undertaking that school systems grapple with continuously.
Community Support: The response to the Perry Hall incident highlighted the importance of community support, including the involvement of counselors to provide emotional assistance to students and parents.
In today’s world, school safety is a shared responsibility that involves schools, parents, law enforcement, and the broader community. Worcester County Public Schools’ adoption of the Standard Response and Reunification Protocols from the I Love You Guys Foundation is a proactive step toward enhancing school safety and preparedness. While no plan can guarantee that a crisis will unfold calmly and organized, having comprehensive protocols in place helps ensure that everyone knows how to respond in a coordinated manner.
Learning from past tragedies like the Perry Hall High School shooting reminds us of the importance of being prepared, communicating clearly, and having well-defined protocols in place to protect our students and school communities. The safety of our students must always be a top priority, and proactive measures like those adopted by WCPS play a vital role in achieving that goal.
Dig Deeper With Our Longreads
Newsletter Sign up to get our best longform features, investigations, and thought-provoking essays, in your inbox every Sunday.
The MEN was founded by John Huber in the fall of 2020. It was founded to provide a platform for expert opinion and commentary on current issues that directly or indirectly affect education. All opinions are valued and accepted providing they are expressed in a professional manner. The Maryland Education Network consists of Blogs, Videos, and other interaction among the K-12 community.