The mass shooting at a Florida high school is bringing school safety procedures to the forefront of parent’s minds.
In Maryland, the law requires that each school facility have a comprehensive emergency plan. School systems are also mandated to conduct certain emergency drills.
In addition to fire drills, the state requires six others: evacuation, reverse evacuation, severe weather, shelter in place, drop, cover, and hold, and lockdown.
The state does not mandate active assailant training but many schools hold additional trainings or, like Anne Arundel County Public Schools, incorporate active shooting training within their lockdown drills.
“One of the things Anne Arundel does is we spend a tremendous amount of energy training staff to guide our children,” said Doyle Batten, supervisor of school security for Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
While students may experience a set number of trainings, the retired police lieutenant works with teachers and staff members several times a month, sometimes multiple trainings in a week.
“Whether it be a food service worker, a bus driver, a principal, a teacher, anyone who encounters our children, we want the adults to be able to guide our children and to know what to generally expect even when law enforcement arrives,” Batten said.
By putting the emphasis on adults, Batten believes that students can focus more on school and it also keeps drills simple. Kids know lockdown procedures, they may not remember everything brought up in intricate trainings.
“Much like you’d want your cruise ship in being able to guide its passengers so the passengers can focus on having fun, our kids need to focus on being able to learn and not feel like they’re under attack or besiegement all the time,” said Batten.
And the training with teachers is extensive. There's role-playing, interactive question and answer sessions, virtual training, and their curriculum is constantly changing.
“You’re never going to prevent everything but there are people working so hard to do the best that they can to prevent as much as we can and then be ready if the worst case happens, at least to protect as many people as we can,” said Batten.
In an active shooter situation, Batten said that teachers know to lock the doors, keep kids away from doors and windows, turn off the lights, have students silence their phones and be silent.
However, Batten stresses that there's no rubric for these situations. He wants to empower teachers to think, be confident in their decision-making, so that if they can escape through evacuation, they do it.
Something else most people don't know about is the Maryland Center for School Safety. They are the one-stop-shop for school safety directors in the state. They help coordinate drills, evaluate, and observe.
They also set-up other state trainings like active shooter training and behavioral threat risk assessment. And in the last two years, they've held weekly statewide school safety calls that include representatives from school districts as well as local prosecutors and psychologists.
Ed Clarke, executive director of the Maryland Center for School Safety, said they are the number one resource when it comes to school safety in Maryland.
“You can never wait until the day of a critical emergency or crisis in school safety. We have to develop our emergency plans and training and more importantly, our relationships with public safety responders prior to an emergency. Because if we wait til the day of, we will all fail in protecting our students, staff, and parents,” said Clarke.