You can never be too safe
QA’s to increase police presence to end of school year
CENTREVILLE — The sheriff’s office will increase its presence in county schools through the end of the school year, Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann told county commissioners Tuesday, May 22.
The sheriff’s office, Queen Anne’s County Board of Education and the county commissioners also will be working to develop a security plan for all county schools the start of the 2018-2019 school year in the fall.
Hofmann said the sheriff’s office would have deputies in all areas of the county providing coverage to schools, with routine patrols and especially at the start and end of the school day.
County residents will get a letter in the mail from the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners regarding the commissioners’ unanimous decision to increase police presence in schools.
During the meeting, Commission President Stephen
Wilson said, “I think it’s really important that the citizens know that we’re really doing our best and that television has turned the entire country into one big village, so that when people hear something happened in California, it feels like it’s next door. I want to reassure people that everything that can be done is being done. That is the point of the letter.”
“The sheriff, the board of education and the county commissioners cooperated for a number of years to provide safe and secure classrooms in our county,” Commissioner Mark Anderson said. “The sheriff, recognizing the top priority, has found a way to cover all of our schools by effective management of his current staffing through the end of this school year.
“Joint efforts of the parties will result in a security plan for all schools (K through 12) to be in place for the beginning of this fall term. For obvious reasons, some aspects of these plans will not be made public.”
While there is no specific threat to the county’s schools, Commissioner Jack Wilson discussed the emotional toll of school violence across the country.
“Fear, whether perceived or real, is still fear,” Jack Wilson said. “It would be irresponsible for us as commissioners to not do what we can to minimize that fear for our parents, teachers and, above all, the students. Unfortunately, in our world today, we have to face these challenges, and I am happy that our commission, along with the sheriff and school board, recognize that and are doing what we can.”
Commissioner Robert Buckey said he and the sheriff have been working on this issue for seven months to find a way to make kids feel safer at school.
“I look forward to working with the sheriff and school board,” he said.
Hofmann thanked the county commissioners and the school board for working with him to make the schools safer.
“These tragedies across our nation are touching each and every one of us in a very, very personal way,” Hofmann said. “Imagine back in the day when you stepped in the classroom, shut the door, and you were free from bullying or worry of who is going to bang through the door to create havoc. Schools used to be a safe sanctuary.”
“We’ve come up with a plan, a few months ago, to make sure our schools are safe,” the sheriff said. “I’m not going to disclose the actual plan, but many of you have seen an increase in law enforcement at the schools.”
Hofmann said his office remains dedicated to ensuring the safety of all students and staff in Queen Anne’s County schools. Understanding the desire to have full-time officers stationed in all the county’s schools, Hofmann has been working with QACPS Superintendent Dr. Andrea Kane and county commissioners to determine what that need is exactly and how it might be put into place.
Possibilities include positioning a full-time deputy at each school, implementing DARE or a similar program, or having the school provide security guards and metal detectors. Hofmann said if his deputies are full time at individual schools, he would like to see their services maximized in education and otherwise integrated into the school system.
Kane has not yet said which direction the school system is likely to pursue, and work sessions between the two systems will continue as they work toward their common goal of ensuring the safety of all students.
May and June are a busy time of year for the school and parents with end-of-the-year activities and graduation approaching. But Hofmann said he looks forward to continuing to work on a solution that will best fit the needs of Queen Anne’s County.
Hofmann has been instrumental in producing a safety video online to assure parents of these initiatives, months before the most recent epidemic of school incidents. The most recent of those videos aired two months ago on QACTV and can be viewed by following this link: https:// youtu.be/CqYA0MbUm-0.
Hofmann and Queen Anne’s State’s Attorney Lance Richardson and their staffs also have been presenting programs to the schools, both educators and students, for the past eight years on stranger danger, critical incidents to the staff and other age-appropriate programs to ensure awareness and education.
In the letter being sent to county residents, the commissioners stated, “The commissioners understand that in addition to providing actual security, there will be a positive benefit in providing visible officer presence, both in terms of deterrent value, and also giving children and staff an increased sense of security. The commissioners fully support and facilitate this vigilance, and commend the sheriff for these precautions.”
Parents are urged to be consistent in monitoring their children’s activities on social media and promptly reporting any alarming or concerning messages or posts brought to their attention, Hoffman said.
SHERIFF GARY HOFMANN