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Prince George’s schools superintendent announces security equipment will be placed at all high schools to improve student safety | #schoolsaftey


Prince George’s County public schools superintendent Millard House II holds a media briefing July 11, 2023, in Upper Marlboro. Photo by William J. Ford.

Within his first two weeks as superintendent of Maryland’s second-largest school system, Millard House II said he has driven at least 500 miles within Prince George’s County, eaten “a lot of really good food” and twice visited the farmer’s market near the county schools’ Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro.

And at a press briefing Tuesday, House presented a leadership agenda that highlights student safety.

He announced that all Prince George’s high schools and a few middle schools will be equipped with security equipment for the upcoming school year. The first day of school is Aug. 28.

House — who previously lead the Houston Independent School District, the eighth largest school district in the country — said the county’s school board approved the “security enhancements” before he arrived, and he supports it.

According to a quote from Communications Technologies Inc. of Chesterfield, Missouri, the equipment cost nearly $523,000.

The technology is similar to scanning devices used at sporting events like those he attended in Houston, House said.

“They are nationwide and they make sense,” he said of the screening devices.

“I think technology has come a long way, so that we don’t have to make our schools look institutionalized [and] not so blatantly obvious,” he said. “It’s there to help as a safety resource. This is the direction that we’re going as a school district and it’s something that I support wholeheartedly.”

Also, all high school and middle school students will be required to wear clear backpacks, House said.

Some will be distributed for free at a back-to-school event next month.

He said the see-through backpacks would help improve safety within the schools and on buses.

“This is a societal issue. The byproduct of many of the firearms in our educational institutions is a byproduct of what we’re seeing in the community, but you have to draw a line…” said House, who added that his son who will be wearing a clear backpack as a middle school student.

Prince George’s has endured a few high-profile violent incidents. In May, a 15-year-old boy was arrested after he walked on a school bus and attempted to shoot a student. Authorities announced indictments last month of the boy, who will be charged as an adult, and three other teenagers.

On Monday, a 17-year-old student enrolled in summer school was arrested after he brought a loaded handgun to Central High School. Police said a school resource officer recovered the gun after a staff member noticed he was possibly carrying one. Police said they will charge the student as an adult with various gun offenses.

Student safety has become a nationwide topic. In neighboring Virginia, a few school districts will install security screening technology that will not resemble metal detectors.

House said he has talked with some union leaders including Martin Diggs, president of the Association of Classified Employees-American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (ACE-AFSCME) Local 2250.

Diggs, who didn’t attend the press briefing in Upper Marlboro, said he supports the focus on student safety but stressed that more work is needed.

His union submitted 10 recommendations this year to former county schools leader Monica Goldson. Among the recommendations were to discuss safety and security services in principals’ meetings, to assign security assistant positions within the Security and Safety Services Office and to require charter schools to maintain minimum security positions so other staff aren’t pulled from neighboring PGCPS security-staffed schools.

Those recommendations were accepted, Diggs said, but others were not, including to require two security personnel at each middle school and one at every elementary school and at central offices.

“For some Prince George’s County employees in [office buildings], there are no security personnel,” said Diggs, a bus driver for 20 years. “If something were to pop off and a safety issue were to arise, what they have is 911. They have no one there on the premises to stop the threat. We’re behind in making certain decisions.”



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