Students at Northwood High School in Silver Spring walk along the side of the school towards the main entrance every morning before the first bell rings. With neither an assigned uniform nor a dress code, only their backpacks mark them as students. One by one, each student walks by the security guard without showing identification, without going through a metal detector, and without being questioned about their enrollment at the school.
“I don’t think [security] works, like anyone can really get in like there’s been other people from different schools just come in and show up here,” said 17-year-old junior Christine Leon.
Leon is just one of the many students there who have their own opinion regarding school safety and security; some students say safety is based on which officer is monitoring the building.
“It depends on the person, like the security person but they’re pretty good as far as I know,” said 17-year-old senior Tsion Tesfaye.
Furthermore, Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson Derek Turner explained that each high school is staffed by a specially-trained police officer, known as a School Resource Officer. When asked to elaborate further about MCPS’ emergency preparedness, Turner referred to the department’s official website, which states the schools in the area are “prepared to effectively and efficiently respond to a multitude of emergency/crisis situations that may impact students, staff, and parents or guardians.”
According to the MCPS website, MCPS has a system-wide Emergency Response Plan as well as emergency/crisis plans tailored to each individual school which are updated each year before being reviewed and approved by the Department of School Safety and Security. Schools are also staffed by teams of security guards “assigned based on the size of the school population,” Turner said.
However, no schools in Montgomery County currently have metal detectors, which would detect weapons like guns or knives immediately upon their being brought into a school building.
“There are several considerations regarding metal detectors including, but not limited to cost,” Turner said.
Turner also noted that MCPS has 205 schools which would each need employees to staff the metal detectors, and that because many students bring metal objects to school, metal detectors would cause significant delays while students were being searched. Furthermore, Turner added that guns can be made out of plastic, and that even with metal detectors, a student with a gun could fire upon students from parking lots or through windows.
Parents also believe that school safety is determined not only by security procedures, but by adherence to the overall laws we follow as a society.
“Number one problem is guns,” said Rodger Fiteu, whose son is currently a freshman at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. “If we are going to talk about safety in schools we have to first talk about the guns, so the problem of guns should be taken care before we even talk about the schools, there should be some form of gun control,” he said.
Fiteu added that as a parent, he believes there will never be “enough security” to protect his son or all the students in schools. “To my knowledge, there will never be enough security,” he said. “There are a countless number of guns in circulation so there will never be enough security, the problem of guns need to be taken care of first.”