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    Press Release – Maryland Center for School Safety Leads Statewide School-Based Incident Tabletop Exercise

    MCSS Promotes the Use of Standard Response Protocols from the “i love u guys” Foundation

    Emergency planning using an “all hazards approach” means that individuals are prepared to respond to any situation during a school day: weather events, accidents, intruders, fires, and other threats to personal safety. Quickly and clearly directing all students and staff to take immediate, specific actions to prevent harm is critical to emergency preparedness. Using a single word and accompanying phrase allows for this. Historically, schools developed codes, terms, and phrases that, while well-intentioned, have sometimes led to confusion. Confusion means delaying the actions taken while individuals seek clarity on what they should do.

    MCSS supports using a common lexicon of terms across all Maryland jurisdictions and stakeholder groups to communicate clearly during an emergency. Communications through social media broaden the audience beyond local boundaries. Standard terms allow emergency responders, parents, students, school personnel, local media, and other Maryland citizens to understand what is occurring and respond accordingly. 

    The “i love u guys” standard response protocols are data-driven, researched, and based on relevant experiences. The five standard response protocols have gone through several revisions through the years based on their use in school settings and analysis by experts in school safety. All products and resources are free. 

    An emergency preparedness plan should include designated time to provide direct instruction to staff, students, and parents about each SRP. Tabletop exercises following direct instruction provide the means by which to discuss the application of what was taught and generalize it to a unique set of circumstances. Drills test what has been learned and should inform the next steps for improvement. Teach, exercise, drill, improve should be a familiar cycle in schools.

    Identifying the appropriate protocol given a set of circumstances requires school officials to deeply understand each protocol and spend time discussing various types of emergencies through tabletop exercises. School officials should be mindful that an emergency evolves, and so should the protocol. Often, a single emergency event will require two or more protocols. This NEW tabletop exercise 37 is interactive and an excellent example of how multiple protocols are called for as the circumstances evolve.

    Wear Blue for Human Trafficking Awareness January 11, 2024

    Human trafficking affects millions across the globe. January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month (HTPM) and a time for everyone to come together to raise awareness of and help combat this heinous crime. The Interstate-95 corridor is an easily accessible thoroughfare for human traffickers. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) suggests that approximately 70 percent of human trafficking incidents occur in our Nation’s truck stops. Take steps to know what to do if you observe something of concern AND how to keep Maryland students from becoming victims. Under Maryland law, human trafficking is considered child abuse and must be reported. Maryland educators, police officers, and human service workers are mandatory reporters.

    January 11 marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, also known as #WearBlueDay. On this day, Blue Campaign invites you to wear blue, the international color of human trafficking awareness, to state your commitment to help save lives. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published the “How to Talk to Youth About Human Trafficking” guide as an easy reference tool for educators and coaches to use, in addition to a “Human Trafficking Response Guide” for School Resource Officers.

    Other helpful resources from DHS include the “What is Human Trafficking?” infographic, the “What is Human Trafficking?” video, and available for download in 39 languages an “indicator card” that defines the difference between smuggling and trafficking, common indicators of human trafficking, and ways to report.

    How to Stay Safe During Severe Weather Season

    A twisting funnel cloud is destroying a house, debris is flying all around in circular motion.
    Schools are encouraged to talk through and then walk through tornado drills in their buildings

    A tornado touched down in Rising Sun in Cecil County on April 1st, and recent tornadoes in Georgia and Mississippi remind us spring tornado season is upon us. When a tornado hit Jacksboro Elementary School in Jacksboro, Texas, prior emergency planning and drills were credited with saving the lives of students, faculty and parents.

    The Maryland Center for School Safety has partnered with the Maryland Department of Emergency Management (MDEM,) to help prepare for tornado season and plan for an emergency.  We spoke to MDEM’s Communications Department about severe weather awareness initiatives. They want to remind everyone to be cognizant tornadoes can happen with little warning. As with all emergency situations, preparation, planning, and practice help to mitigate harm.

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    Show Your Appreciation for School Resource Officers On February 15

    Officer is interacting with a student in Maryland school
    Calvert County officer engages with student in Maryland school

    School Resource Officers (SROs) and School Safety Employees (SSEs) often go unrecognized. The Maryland Center for School Safety hopes to change this, by encouraging everyone to celebrate SRO Appreciation Day on February 15th. This national recognition celebrates the work of SROs and SSEs creating positive school climates for Maryland students.  They strive to keep outside dangers from coming into schools while also connecting students with resources, creating a positive environment for learning, and building relationships with students, staff and caregivers.

    Officer Danielle Baust at Aberdeen High School
    Officer Danielle Baust at Aberdeen High School

    Michael Rudinski, Training Specialist with MCSS, has provided training to approximately 1,250 individuals who have become SROs and SSEs. Individuals participate in a 70-hour training course, which includes, among other things, specific training on de-escalation techniques, disability/diversity awareness, implicit bias, and restorative approaches. These safety officials focus on prevention, awareness, resources, and crisis intervention every day while working in Maryland schools.

    Mr. Rudinski says he is incredibly impressed with SRO and SSE candidates. “The officers are there because they love children, want to make a difference, and are excited to be SROs and SSEs.”

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    Internal Perspectives of the Maryland Center for School Safety

    Intern Devin Peart at his desk at MCSS

    The MCSS team introduces you to summer 2022 intern, Devin Peart, who was involved in a number of high-level projects during his 10-week internship at MCSS. Mr. Peart is a Senior at Mount St. Mary’s University majoring in Political Science. He is originally from Littlestown, Pennsylvania. Before joining the MCSS team, he previously interned for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

    Mr. Peart learned of the internship opportunity through the Maryland Public Service Scholars Program. While at MCSS, Mr. Peart researched the latest school safety news, legislation, and court rulings related to school safety. He also compiled data on school safety issues and communications across the US. He met with each of the MCSS team members, learning their role in the agency, and how each position fits into the mission of MCSS. He was surprised the agency did more than working with just security and law enforcement professionals.

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    Washington County Principal Asks “What if…?” and Makes a Huge Impact on School Safety

    Image reads School Safety Scenerio
    This is an image from Emma K. Doub’s newsletter: Smore

    Dr. Stacy Henson, Principal at Emma K. Doub Elementary School for Integrated Arts & Technology in Washington County, recognizes the importance of emergency preparedness for her school community. “One of the things we discussed as a staff/safety committee is that we do a lot of professional development around academics, but safety is also at the forefront of what we do daily.  We wanted to come up with a way to include safety topics as daily/weekly discussion points, so it was continually part of our thought processes and learning,” Dr. Henson said.

    The problem was how to plan for school safety issues? She felt she needed professional guidance. She searched for this information online and found tabletop safety exercises online at the Vermont School Safety Center, and began incorporating them into the school’s safety team drills. Dr. Henson explains, “These What if…? drills started with the thought that it would create opportunities for staff to revisit the safety plan, so that it was not just a document that we looked at the first week of school.  We wanted the staff to know it (the plan) well, and be able to utilize pieces of it in the event of an emergency.  However, it (drills) has transitioned into questions that pop up as actual real-life situations. We turn them into ‘What would/should you do if ____ occurred?’”

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    Practice Makes Progress

    The Importance of Drills and Exercises in Special Needs School Environments

    Especially Safe focus on Planning and Preparation

    In a recent post, we discussed a new, free, resource, Especially Safe: An Inclusive Approach to Safety Preparedness in Educational Settings. Especially Safe was presented to our school safety community by Michele Gay, Founder & Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools® and Lee-Nadine Oppenheim, Director of Finance and Operations at Ivymount School. Both presenters have extensive knowledge of safety procedures, and how they relate to disabilities, accessibility, and functional needs of students and schools.

    Our presenters discussed the importance of safety planning and drills, particularly for our special needs constituents. “Create a plan, share the plan with all of the stakeholders, update the plan, and keep everyone updated,” Ms. Gay said.

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    Creating an Especially Safe School Environment for School Communities

    MCSS began its monthly School Safety Professional Development Conference call with Michele Gay, Founder & Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools® and Lee-Nadine Oppenheim, Director of Finance and Operations at Ivymount School as they presented Especially Safe: An Inclusive Approach to Safety Preparedness in Educational Settings. The two subject matter experts discussed real solutions in planning for school safety issues, executing safety drills, and particular considerations for special needs school populations.

    Michelle Gay is a parent of Josephine, a special needs victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. As a result of the horrible tragedy, she assisted in the foundation of Safe and Sound Schools, a national non-profit school safety advocacy and resource center providing research-based tools, support, crisis prevention, response, and recovery programs.

    The foundation’s newest program Especially Safe was developed with expert practitioners from across disciplines to include resources, tools, and teaching ideas to meet the safety needs of community members with special needs. “We are asking for people to prepare for emergencies of all hazards, with a generalized approach to school safety,” Ms. Gay said.

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    See it. Hear it. REPORT IT!

    Safe Schools Maryland Anonymous Reporting
    See it. Hear it. Report it! Safe Schools Maryland.
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    NEW 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Launches in Maryland

    If you, a friend or family member are having a mental crisis or just need to talk with someone, the 988 Lifeline is the number to call.

    Photo credit MDH Behavioral Health Administration website

    The State of Maryland has activated a new crisis line designated for suicide and substance abuse concerns. The 988 Lifeline number is designated for anyone who is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, contemplating suicide, or worried about someone who may need crisis support.

    Why do citizens need a Suicide and Substance Abuse line?

    In many instances of mental health crisis, a trained mental health provider and/or emergency mental health care is required. In the past, the only resource to call was 911. Historically we’ve learned police, fire, or EMS are not necessary in many circumstances of mental health and drug abuse calls. In some circumstances, the arrival of police on the scene can escalate non-violent situations and have created additional problems for those going through trauma and crisis. In some cases, police presence may have caused tragic consequences for individuals in a mental health crisis.

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    Should Parents Worry about Rainbow Fentanyl in Halloween Candy?

    this photo shows multicolored pills in bright colors
    This is a photo of rainbow fentanyl

    An MCSS guest blog written by Avery Meyer, Public Health Analyst for Maryland – CDC Foundation, and John Flickinger, Drug Intelligence Officer for Maryland – Washington Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA)

    Recently, there have been media reports about the presence of rainbow-colored fentanyl pills in the illicit drug supply, as well as fentanyl pills being concealed in candy packaging. The motivation behind these methods is being debated, but the message to remember is that fentanyl is increasingly present in the illicit drug market. Given how potent fentanyl is, especially for people without opioid tolerance, ingesting just one of these pills can be deadly. All Marylanders, including parents and youth, must be aware of these dangers.

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