Security Services for Prince George's public schools plans to present a proposal calling for increased school security Thursday. Rex Barrett, deputy director of Security Services talked about the plan and how its timeline sped up after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Below are details of the long-term plan as explained by Barrett.
Adding Armed Police Officers to Middle and Elementary Schools
All 22 of the county's public high schools already have armed security officers who are members of the Prince George's County police department or three local police forces, that include Hyattsville city, Bowie city and the city of Greenbelt. The new proposal recommends increasing that protection.
It advises having armed police officers at all the county's public middle schools, and it would assign officers to groups of elementary schools. The patrolling officers would be able to show up quickly if an emergency occurred at one of the schools, according to Barrett.
If approved by the board, the parts of the proposal that involve armed officers would need to be collaborated with various police departments, Barrett said. The details would need to be explored with these departments before a final plan could be proposed, he added.
Technology: Panic Buttons, Electronic Doors, Cameras, and Radios
Along with the increased police presence, the security proposal recommends more powerful technology.
It suggests a new data analysis system that would be able to analyze crime trends and make predictions. When a visitor showed up at a school's electronic door, it could not only identify someone with multiple felony convictions, it could inform administrators if he or she was on the Maryland sex offenders registry or in a criminal justice database, Barrett said.
New door-level cameras would work together with the database, by transmitting an image of a visitor's face to the office receptionist's phone—before anyone pressed an access buzzer to open an electronic door that would allow them entry into the school, Barrett said.
The proposed doors would create one point of entry for visitors. Because schools are large, Barrett said having one point of access helps.
Front offices would also have a panic button for emergency situations. Once the systems were activated, schools could easily install more panic buttons without incurring much additional cost, according to Barrett. But security would start with one button at schools, using them as a pilot program, he said.
Currently all but 65 of 204 schools have elevated "global" cameras that can be moved around and provide a 360-degree view, Barrett explained. The proposal going before the Board calls for the remaining 65 schools to get these cameras, in addition to the door-level cameras.
But there is no guarantee that the new systems would catch every person who might pose a threat, according to Barrett.
"It's going to help us be better prepared, but its not going to be at a point where we'll know everyone," Barrett said.
A new radio system that is part of the proposal may even be in use by the end of February, according to Barrett. When a central Virginia earthquake shook Maryland in 2011, school staff tried to use their cell phones and found the lines were busy, he said.
In addition, schools have a lot of dead spots, according to Barrett. And the radios the school had previously wouldn't communicate beyond the school, he said.
The new radio system would empower school officials to reach police, fire, emergency responders and public safety personnel in the case of a catastrophic incident, according to Barrett. Schools could get announcements from anyone caught in that emergency, Barrett said.
Take a look at the full list of long-term safety recommendations that Security Services has on the agenda for the Prince George's County Board of Education's system oversight meeting.