County Schools To Reconvene Safety Group; Weapons Detection System Weighed

NEWARK – A school safety committee is expected to review the feasibility of implementing weapons detection systems at local schools.

Worcester County Public Schools officials are in the process of re-forming the school safety committee that was initially created following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. One of the group’s first tasks will be looking at whether Worcester County could implement weapons detection systems.

“Any opportunity for us to work on school safety for our students and staff is of the utmost priority,” said Annette Wallace, the school system’s chief safety and academic officer for grades 9-12.

According to Wallace, the school system’s safety committee was formed under the leadership of Steve Price in the wake of the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook. The committee’s work led to the implementation of the buzzer system used to let visitors into schools and provided access to an anonymous school safety tip line. In recent years, however, the committee hasn’t been active. When Wallace, who likes to encourage stakeholder participation, took over the chief safety officer position in August, she made reestablishing the committee one of her goals.

“Mr. Price gave us an excellent foundation in safety,” she said. “I wanted to keep things moving forward.”

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She said the committee would include parents, principals and teachers as well as representatives from local law enforcement agencies as well as Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino. The group’s first task will be to research weapons detection systems.

“They are very different than the traditional metal detector,” she said.

Wallace said the committee would explore the use of detection systems at regional schools and talk to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office about how they could be implemented. She said the challenging part of moving forward with implementation would be providing monitoring for them, as the school resource officers already in place at schools were meant to be patrolling school grounds. The committee will also review the effectiveness of weapons detection systems.

“We’re going to be taking a hard look at the data,” she said.

As the committee begins its efforts, Wallace wants to remind the public that the school safety tip line — Safe Schools Maryland — was always available and that anyone with a safety concern should use it. Through the tip line, anonymous reports can be submitted any time and they’re immediately received by the Maryland Emergency Management Center and then emailed and texted to the appropriate school district. To submit a tip call 1-833-632-7233 or go to schoolsafety.maryland.gov.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.