WCPS training

Dr. Amy James, a clinical and forensic psychologist addresses school administrators, law enforcement and other emergency services personnel about school threat assessment at one of several school safety trainings last month.

(Aug. 9, 2019) Worcester County Public Schools’ administrators, deputies and other law enforcement officials continued to focus on preventing school shootings as part of their summer training last month.

“We had a great two days of training talking about mental health services and establishing these assessment teams to help our kids,” said Steve Price, chief safety officer for Worcester County Public Schools. 

The threat assessment training came partly because of a Maryland General Assembly mandate, according to Price. Numerous school shootings have occurred in the last two decades, including the February 2018 massacre that left 17 people dead and 17 more injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

Price said the emphasis on the overall training sessions were reaction to the uptick in mass shootings across the nation.

Price said there is one school deputy in all Worcester County public schools, and they’ve been there since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012 when 26 people, including 20 children, were killed.

He added that the 14 school deputies are members of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. 

The two training sessions took place over three days at Worcester Technical High School in Newark.

Price said more than 100 administrative staff, law enforcement officers, health department personnel, and members of the fire marshal’s office attended the first two-day training course from July 24-25 taught by Dr. Amy James, a clinical and forensic psychologist of North Carolina. She helped instruct officials what to do in the event that a student exhibited signs of off behavior or making some type of red flag statement.

The National Criminal Justice Training Center offered guidance, he said. 

Price stressed the importance of having everyone who might be involved in or have to respond to a shooting on the same page.

“We like to have everybody there at the table especially as we move forward with these assessments,” Price said.

School administration staff and law enforcement officials attended second session, which was held on July 30. The “I Love You Guys” foundation, an organization dedicated to school safety, offered additional information on intruders in schools and family reunification. 

“If the unthinkable would ever happen in our schools, that’s always a challenge … to make sure you get the parents and the students back together again in an orderly and timely fashion,” Price said. “And with everyone’s emotion running high, of course, that’s always a challenge, and that was very important. So that takes a lot of time in planning.”

Price expressed his gratitude to many agencies, including the sheriff’s office, state’s attorney’s office and the Worcester County Commissioners for their support of the school safety program.

“I just can’t tell you how proud I am and how grateful I am for the relationship we have with all the resources we have in Worcester County,” Price said. 

With less than a month until the roughly 6,800 Worcester County Public School students head back to class, Price said his team is working on upgrading security cameras, acquainting newly reassigned school deputies and revamping security measures as construction continues at the new Showell Elementary School. 

“We don’t feel that kids can learn if they don’t feel safe, and we don’t think teachers can teach if they don’t feel safe, and we just feel that we have a responsibility to make all those people feel safe as best we can,” Price said. 

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