County presents school security plan
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 12:21

$3.7 million allotted for improvements

by Nicole Rodman

In a press conference in Towson last Tuesday, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced a number of safety measures designed to improve security at public schools in Baltimore County.
    Flanked by Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance and Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, Kamenetz announced the first phase of a long-term plan to enhance security at all county schools.
    After the shooting at Perry Hall High School on the first day of school, in which a student was injured after being shot by another student, Kamenetz met with both Dance and Johnson to evaluate and discuss security in schools.
    In the wake of the Perry Hall High shooting, Dr. Dance announced the creation of a new BCPS safety and security office.
    Following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December, the effort gained new urgency.
    “We have no greater responsibility as leaders than to protect our children when they go to school each and every day,” Kamenetz noted in his remarks on Jan. 29.
    In his recommendations to improve school security, Kamenetz announced that new, state-of-the-art camera systems will be installed in all elementary and special education schools in the county. County middle and high schools already have cameras installed.
    As is the case with the currently-installed equipment, cameras will be placed in halls and common areas and near entrances at all schools.
    Video from each county school will stream live to police cars in the community, as well as to local police precincts and police command staff in Towson.
    School resource police officers, already stationed in all county middle and high schools, will be given mobile tablet computers that will be linked to the school’s camera system, allowing the officer to monitor the entire building.
    Kamenetz also announced plans to upgrade electronic school entry systems. All schools in the county already have some type of secure locked entry system.
    Each school will also implement a “state-of-the-art visitor identification system” to accompany the new electronic entry system.
    When asked about specifics regarding these proposals, such as the new entry and identification systems, county spokesperson Ellen Kobler was unable to provide details, citing the fact that “these plans are still in process.”
    Kobler referred The Eagle to public safety spokesperson Elise Armacost, who was unavailable for comment by press time.
    According to Kamenetz, Dance and Johnson, the newly-proposed security measures are just step one in a long process.
    Officials are also considering adding increased security officials as well as swipe-card entry systems and mental health programs.
    Noting the importance of achieving “balance” in implementing security measures, Johnson noted, “You don’t want to make [school] feel like a fortress.”
    In order to pay for the new measures, Kamenetz submitted a request for $3.7 million (in addition to BCPS’ current $2.5 million security budget) in additional funding from the Baltimore County Council.
    The council voted to approve the $3.7 million addition to the capital spending bill on Feb. 4.
     In the case of Robert W. Gladden Jr., the accused Perry Hall High shooter, a judge is set to rule this week on whether Gladden will face trial as a juvenile or as an adult.
    Gladden is currently being charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder and other charges in last fall’s incident.
    For his part, Kamenetz notes that he hopes that the new school security measures are just the first step in a multi-part plan to improve student safety.
    “While I am pleased that these immediate actions are a good start, we still have more to do,” Kamenetz noted last week. “I have directed Chief Johnson to continue working with Dr. Dance and his school security team to explore other issues, and I expect to come forward in the next few months with additional recommendations.”