Laurel councilwoman asks police about active shooter trainings at town schools

By Tony E. Windsor

A Laurel councilwoman made inquiry during a recent Laurel Mayor and Council meeting about what is being done to ensure that Laurel schools are prepared in the event of an active shooter incident. During the Tuesday, Feb. 20 meeting of council, Cheryl Martine posed the question to Police Chief Danny Wright.

I would like to ask the chief what is being done for our children in our school district, in light of what happened down in [Parkland] Florida at the school? Are the schools having drills? Do the children know what to do, she asked.

Wright said the police department has conducted active shooter drills in the schools and last year held a drill at the elementary school level. He said that police departments are being expected statewide to hold active school shooter drills both for the single officer responding to an active shooter, or multi-agency response to the active shooter location.

There are plans to implement training for police officers and Emergency Medical Services, to ensure that we are all working off the same page in terms of where we will respond, how we will respond and what to expect. The training will be statewide, so should police agencies from other communities respond, everyone will be familiar with the proper protocol, he said.

Wright said he has also met with Town Manager Jamie Smith and they have agreed that it will be beneficial to hold more frequent discussions with the Laurel School District administration to share information about the issue. He said he and his officers have walked through the schools at different times and have discussed ideas they have for possible proactive measures they can share with the schools.

It is all about practice, he said. I think these type drills should be conducted more often, but we also have to work with the schools mandated schedule. There is also the consideration of the different age groups. We conducted a drill at Paul Dunbar Elementary School. Getting these younger kids out of the school is a whole different ball game than working with the older kids in high school. In one instance I recall a child being extraordinarily scared; and this was just a drill. This can impact children more than what we understand. I know the school would like to do more training, but they have to follow a strict education schedule.

Martin said she sees this as a responsibility of the schools and the town. Parents send their children to school and I would like to know that everyone, the school district and the Council sitting here in this room back one another and we take more of an active role to make sure these children come home alive, she said.

Wright said he recognizes that some measures, including enhanced technology like surveillance systems, are cost prohibitive and the district is unable to afford those type upgrades; however, he believes there are some simplistic measures that can be taken to help address safety. There are things like narrowing the ways in and out of the schools. I believe once school is in session, there should be only one way in and out. All doors will remain locked, so that should someone walk out the backdoor, that door locks behind them. That way everyone is aware there is one focal point coming into the school. I realize it becomes an inconvenience for everyone to be buzzed in and out of the school, but that is just the way it is.

Wright said it is a matter of meeting with the district to discuss some proactive ideas. We will be meeting with the school district and sharing some ideas and Superintendent [Shawn] Larrimore has always been super supportive. I know the school is eager to do all it can to address the safety of the children, he said.

Laurel Mayor Shwed, who works in the Laurel School District, said he has participated in school district drills authored by the FBI. I have participated in the latest FBI trainings at both the middle and high schools with the Run, Hide, Fight. active shooter training. We have even talked to children about things like if it comes down to fight, what do we do? We have talked to them about throwing books and everything else. The school is consistent with the current state of the art in terms of the facility. I think the schools have made a good faith gesture to try and guarantee as best they can the safety of the children.

Martin said she agrees that practice is the key to helping children and schools be prepared in the event of an incident. I just think we need to keep going on and on with the children so it is instilled in them what is the proper thing to do. Thats all I am saying, she said.

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