CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Education disclosed details of its evolving plan for enhanced school security on Tuesday. The board favors the utilization of five off-duty state troopers to provide protection for the outlying schools.
“I think the option of using off-duty troopers is a good one,” said board member Mike Llewellyn.
The use of armed off-duty state troopers, who would not be in uniform but could use their cruisers, adds a specific detail to who would actually provide the security.
Previous debate on who would conduct security ranged from trained police officers to retired law enforcement personnel.
The plan was presented by Robert Farrell, the board’s coordinator of safety, security and risk management, who said it would cost $300,000 annually to hire the security personnel.
The proposed security arrangement may be unique in the state.
“This could be a pilot program for the state of Maryland. We could be the model,” said Llewellyn.
The board began its quest for an enhanced security plan with a request to the county in early March for $500,000 to add five armed security guards and two mental health professionals to help in identifying high-risk cases.
The BOE’s initial request caused the board, county commissioners, the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police officials to meet and discuss ideas that could lead to a comprehensive plan.
The details of the plan are still being hammered out. The county will have to vote on the plan when it adopts its fiscal year budget by June. It must decide if it will provide all the funding or a portion.
The meeting was the first for County Commissioner Bill Valentine, who has taken the place of Michael McKay, county commission president, as the ex-officio non-voting member on the board. McKay appointed Valentine in an effort to ease his busy schedule and allow a new commissioner to work with the board.
“The two boards will work together and I’m quite sure we will come together on a plan,” said Valentine.
“We are in favor of enhanced school security and know it’s a huge issue. School bus and bus stop safety is an issue as well,” added Valentine.
The board has been working on enhanced security since a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
“There are certain things that happen in history that make you take account of what matters,” said Llewellyn.
The mental health aspect of the plan has yet to be worked out.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the mental health aspect of this,” said David Cox, superintendent of schools.
Valentine said the mental health facet will be a component of the plan.
“Commissioner McKay had a meeting with mental health expert Dr. Sue Raver at the health department. She is also working with us to make it a complete package when it’s done,” said Valentine.
The plan also asks for the addition of a sixth retired trooper to teach DARE classes. Each DARE course is designed to be taught in a 10 consecutive day schedule. DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org