School safety more than law enforcement in Baltimore County

Federal dollars would be part of holistic approach

TOWSON, Md. - Baltimore County is hoping to get a piece of the $75 million set aside by the federal government to improve school safety.

The money would serve as part of a holistic approach to preventing tragedies like  school shootings in New Town, Conn. and closer to home in Perry Hall.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), who announced the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative Wednesday, emphasized it is not a one size fits all program.

If Baltimore County is granted funding, which the police department and schools system must jointly apply for, the federal dollars would not go toward placing school resource officers in elementary schools, Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said.

There are currently about 65 school resource officers stationed in middle and high schools throughout Baltimore County.

Johnson said school safety is much more than placing a uniformed officer inside school buildings.

"It goes beyond law enforcement," Johnson said.

Johnson said he and county officials envision training teachers and parents on how to identify at-risk youth, help address the pathology that can lead to violence and how to respond to an emergency situation.

Conferences that provide this kind of training, however, cost money.

"School safety is not only the responsibility of law enforcement officers," Mikulski said.

Johnson agrees. He said the federal dollars set aside for school safety can go toward law enforcement, but can also provide "a holistic set of services that not only could be utilized by schools."

The funding could also go toward community organizations, help provide new technology such as security cameras or toward crime prevention through school design. The county has already spent $6 million recently in security updates including cameras, intercoms and visitor ID systems.

Baltimore County schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance said he believes the county has a good chance of getting the funding because of the existing partnership between local schools and law enforcement.



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