Rachel Yood says YES: Safety is the overriding concern
Every security guard in Prince George's County Public Schools is a plainclothes police officer who has the power to arrest students. Each school also has a permanent School Resource Officer (SRO), who is in uniform and works for the police department. MCPS is the one of the only public school systems in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region that does not have SROs.
County Executive Douglas Duncan's proposal to hire 32 Educational Facility Officers (EFOs) is much more palatable than that image of police officers patrolling school hallways. The plan is a logical, measured step to address the real possibility of a serious emergency.
A truly severe incident, while unlikely, could occur. Bob Hellmuth, MCPS assistant director of school safety and security, said that recent events have engendered concern. Among these events are two major tornadoes in this area, a rash of nationwide school shootings and the Sept 11 terrorist attacks. The events of Sept 11 revealed numerous problems within MCPS, including difficulty with communication and traffic and uncertainty over whether to close schools. EFOs would be trained in community policing, emergency preparedness and crisis management—useful skills when something goes wrong.
EFOs would become comfortable with the layout of our schools and be prepared to help in the event of emergency, but they would not spend much time at Blair, according to MCPS spokesperson Kate Harrison. Rather, they would split their time in a beat that includes many schools. According to Harrison, the county shot down a far more invasive program, which would have included SROs, last year. The currently proposed program takes into account concerns that a strong police presence would make students feel like criminals. Therefore, the EFO program would be an asset rather than a burden to our schools.
According to Hellmuth, the EFOs' primary duty would be to develop an emergency preparedness plan for a wide range of possible incidents, including severe weather, situations involving hazardous materials and school violence. EFOs would improve a school's day-to-day communication with police because the school will have a permanent contact.
More importantly, according to Assistant Principal Linda Wanner, young people would learn not to fear the police. "The students would gain a contact with law enforcement and see that person in a positive light," said Wanner. According to Harrison, EFOs would also contribute by teaching classes on subjects such as drug abuse.
And, because EFOs would work for Montgomery County, not MCPS, the program would not spend a dime of school funding.
The EFO program will help schools react to whatever emergency might occur. Because it poses no threat to our current atmosphere or to funding for other programs, this plan is ideal to address the county's security concerns.
Rachel Yood. Rachel Yood is a junior in the Communication Arts Program at Blair. She is excited to join Silver Chips as a page editor, but suspicious of the time the newspaper seems to take from her primary activity: sleeping. When not working or curled up in … More »