BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD — From bus attendants to school psychologists, more than 100 positions are being added to the county’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year in Baltimore County Public Schools. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced Thursday that the jobs were being included in an effort to increase school safety.
Among the proposed positions are 19 school resource officers and dozens of professionals to support mental health and the emotional well-being of students.
The county executive’s proposal of more than $8 million toward school safety came two weeks after a student opened fire at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and injuring another teen.
The gunman shot and killed himself when confronted by a school resource officer at the school in southern Maryland on March 20.
The month before, a shooter killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day.
"The events of the past few months have moved us all," Kamenetz said. "No community, no school, and no family is immune from the fear that takes place after every school shooting incident. As government officials we have no more important responsibility than to make sure we do all that we can to protect our students and our teachers each and every day."
Here is the breakdown of the 109.5 positions that Kamenetz says he will propose in the upcoming budget:
18 school psychologists19 school resource officers22 social workers23 counselorsPupil personnel workersHealth assistantsBus attendantsSchool climate support team to address students with complex needsSchool climate support team to assist schools with conflict management strategies
"The most significant part of what we’re doing" is putting the support staff in place, Kamenetz told WBAL. In the current structure, he said teachers may notice that a student may need some form of assistance but not have a place to refer the child.
Interim Superintendent Verletta White agreed that having mental health support was critical.
"The best way to prevent disciplinary and disruptive issues in our schools is to recognize and address the important role that mental health plays in student safety," White said in a statement.
"I believe in being proactive," Baltimore County Council Chair Julian Jones added. "Doing everything that we can to ensure our school system has the resources it needs to help our children before they are in trouble is the appropriate thing to do."
School Resource Officer Expansion
Under the school safety proposal that Kamenetz outlined on Thursday, Baltimore County’s stable of school resource officers would increase from 65 to 84.
"School resource officers have proven to be a critical component in not only responding to incidents, but more importantly, to preventing incidents before they occur," Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said in a statement. "If approved by the County Council, we will have these additional officers in place before the beginning of school in the fall."
One officer from each of the 10 precincts would be added to the roster of 65 school resource officers already on patrol in the middle and high schools. These 10 new officers would be a security resource for elementary schools in their respective jurisdictions.
An additional nine officers would be added as well, with their placements guided by input from the police chief and superintendent.
Elementary schools would not have their own school resource officers, "given the large numbers of schools but smaller numbers of issues," Kamenetz told WBAL. As of fall 2018, Baltimore County Public Schools will operate 107 elementary schools. The assignment of an officer to an elementary school would be done "best on a rotating basis," the county executive said.
Kamenetz will formally present his budget proposal to the county council on Thursday, April 12. It must then go through the review process.
Increasing school security has been in the budget for the past several years, he noted. There are 4,600 cameras in Baltimore County Public Schools and 583 card reader door locks, improvements that were made in the past seven years. Currently, Baltimore County is finishing installation of a dashboard that gives public safety officials instant access to video feeds from the school security cameras, libraries and other public facilities, in addition to traffic cameras.
"Since 2011, we invested $13.6 million to reinforce all school doors and windows, adding security cameras and controlled entry," Kamenetz said. "With this budget, we add necessary personnel to ensure that we are reaching the mental health needs of every child to avoid incidents of disruption."
Photo courtesy of Baltimore County government via Flickr.