School Leaders Work to Improve School Safety

September 25, 2005
ROCKVILLE, MD – Leaders of the Montgomery County Public Schools worked throughout the weekend to review the events surrounding the death of a student after a high school football game Friday and to identify preliminary measures to provide additional police protection and school security and to improve youth behavior.

Friday night’s game included a significant police and security presence that reflected a prior plan of action. The steps being reviewed now are designed to strengthen school safety plans and bring renewed focus and public attention to the threat of violence among teenagers. The measures will continue to be developed this week.

The preliminary measures build on the school system actions already under way by high school principals, athletic directors, security staff, guidance counselors, teachers, and parents that have resulted in high quality and safe athletic events in high school football stadiums. The tragic deaths of the student on Friday and a former student the previous week occurred after the games were completed and as crowds were leaving the area. The earlier incident occurred off of school property.

Both deaths have caused growing concern about youth violence. As a result, the preliminary measures are seen as part of larger strategies being used to address such problems as teenage gang activity, misconduct on school buses, bullying, hazing, alcohol and drug abuse, and other anti-social behavior that disrupts the educational environment of the county’s 24 public high schools and threatens the safety of students and staff. Some of the measures may require additional funding.

“Our county has an obligation to take action quickly so that our high schools continue to provide high quality activities in an environment safe for everyone,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “Our schools sponsor community events where students and their families should be able to enjoy the camaraderie of their neighbors and friends, without the fear that someone will be injured or killed in a fight.”

The preliminary measures under review include:
• Assignment of additional school security staff for night football games.
• Deployment of additional police officers to night games.
• Re-scheduling some Friday night games to Saturday afternoon.
• Improving existing parking lot surveillance and crowd supervision.
• Recruiting more parent involvement as event chaperones.
• Engaging more mental health specialists and guidance counselors in pre-crisis intervention activities and anger management.
• Expanding character development programs, problem-solving strategies, and peer mediation for students.
• Expanding student leadership and involvement in modeling good behavior and alerting school officials to potential problems.
• Encouraging more parent involvement in student supervision.
• Initiating a public education campaign to address student behavior issues.

Among the participants in today’s meeting included Larry A. Bowers, chief operating officer; Frieda K. Lacey, deputy superintendent of schools; Donald H. Kress, chief school performance officer; Brian J. Porter, chief of staff; Daniel Shea, principal of Quince Orchard High School; Rebecca Newman, president of the Montgomery County Association of Administrative and Supervisory Personnel; William Beattie, director of interscholastic athletics; Robin Confino, executive assistant to the chief operating officer; Robert Hellmuth, assistant director of school safety and security; and Brian Edwards, director of public information.

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