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Statement to the Maryland State Board on School Safety by Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools

The horrific events of February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL have impacted each and every one of us across the country.

Our prayers and support are extended to the students, families, school system and community in the wake of this tragic loss of precious lives.

I want to reiterate that student safety is my priority and the priority of the State Board. We are fortunate in Maryland to have the Maryland Center for School Safety, a legislated body whose Executive Director and Governing Board stands ready and is committed to working with all of our public school districts, public and private schools, law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue, school administrators, school staff, parents and governmental officials to ensure all schools in Maryland remain a safe and supportive learning environment.

I serve as the Chair of the Maryland Center for School Safety Governing Board and last week called an emergency meeting to discuss and review our current school safety practices. That meeting took place yesterday. Much was discussed by the Board including currently scheduled trainings that are posted on our website. The importance of emergency preparedness drills and the need to focus on mental health supports for our students and staff were also emphasized by the Governing Board.

Additionally, the Center discussed the need for a Statewide school safety meeting in Annapolis to discuss the key elements of school safety and responses to an active shooter. This training will be held on March 22 and will consist of a team from each Local School System to include the school safety/security director, central office, school mental health representatives, local law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency management.

It should also be noted that weekly calls are facilitated by the Executive Director of the Maryland Center for School Safety, Ed Clarke. Yesterday, this call included many members of the Governing Board who were able to hear from 20 of the 24 local school systems as well as many private school security personnel as they shared their current safety issues and best practices. This is a very valuable and essential network of safety experts.

As I said last week, we must not only focus on improving safety and security in our schools, but we must also leverage local and state resources to intervene early as well to provide supports and counseling to troubled students. We must implement and improve threat assessment procedures that include teams that rely on experts in counseling, school administration, instruction and law enforcement.

The Maryland Center for School Safety, the State Board of Education, and myself are placing the highest urgency on actions to improve school safety.

Our students are counting on us!

Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.