LEONARDTOWN, Md. – St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office formally approved the continuation of the successful School Resource Officer and Adopt-a-School programs last week.
J. Scott Smith, Superintendent of Schools, and Sheriff Steve Hall signed A Community Partnership for Safe and Secure Schools agreement and Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, reaffirming the commitment to providing a safe, secure, and nurturing learning environment for students.
“This agreement is so much more than a signature; it is a commitment to the people of this community and, most importantly, to the students,” Sheriff Hall said.
“Student safety and the security of our schools is a bedrock expectation of our community and can only be achieved by a proactive and collaborative relationship between St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office,” Smith said, “and these agreements are a public acknowledgment of our shared responsibility.”
In addition to the agreements, Sheriff Hall, Michael Wyant, Chief of Safety and Security for St. Mary’s County Public Schools, and Charles Eible, School Safety Coordinator, provided an update on current and future school security initiatives for all schools. This included the hiring, supervision, and deployment plan for 18 new full-time uniformed safety and security assistants for each elementary school. The 18 new safety and security assistants will supplement the current uniform safety and security assistants currently working in all secondary schools beginning with the opening of school in August of 2023.
A review of physical security infrastructure and procedures in all St. Mary’s County Public Schools were discussed and included updates on the following:
● Security vestibule enhancements, exterior door monitoring, and visitor management
● Electronic access control and classroom door locks
● Security window laminate for exterior and interior windows and doors
● Weapons abatement and weapons scanning
● Public safety radio communications
● School key access for law enforcement responders
● Public address systems
● First aid stations with AEDs. stop the bleed kits, evacuation chairs, and narcan
● Security video surveillance systems
● Student outreach programs
● Background screening for school employees and volunteers
Under the School Resource Officer (SRO) program, the SRO performs a variety of roles to include being a mentor, teacher, and a law enforcement resource for both students and staff. They work with the school faculty to maintain a safe learning environment. Each SRO is certified through the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) as well as through Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) America to teach the middle school D.A.R.E. curriculum. The Middle School D.A.R.E. Program is currently offered at the four public middle schools as part of the Health Curriculum.
The SRO program was implemented in St. Mary’s County during the 1998-1999 school year. The Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Board of Education of St. Mary’s County, entered into a memorandum of understanding which assigned a deputy to each of the three public high schools. The program was expanded during the 2005-2006 school year adding two additional deputies who split their time between the four public middle schools.
During the 2019-2020 school year, two more deputies were added so that one SRO was dedicated to each county public high school and middle school.
In addition to the School Resource Officer program, the St. Mary’s County Adopt-A-School Program provides mentorship to students. Further, it enhances safe and secure school environments by coordinating additional law enforcement resources and support for St. Mary’s County Public Schools.
The Adopt-A-School program matches St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Deputies with elementary schools that currently do not have the direct support of a School Resource Officer. The deputies, who volunteer to participate in the program, “adopt” their matched elementary school to foster a positive relationship with its students.
Each of the deputies who volunteer to adopt a school will receive formal professional development training and participate in quarterly coordination meetings with the St. Mary’s County Public Schools’ Department of Safety and Security.