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Worcester County Schools focusing on safety policies

Students, teachers hold forum; Hardwire makes in-kind shield donation
By Kara Hallissey | Mar 22, 2018

(March 23, 2018) One month after the mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Stephen Decatur High School students, teachers and administrators held a forum after school in Berlin.

“The discussion was an incredible opportunity for us as leaders to hear from students, who are directly impacted by the decisions made around school safety,” Carrie Sterrs, Worcester County Board of Education spokesperson, said. “I hope that this forum was just the start of an ongoing conversation with our students about this critical issue.”

The forum took place on Wednesday, March 14, at 3 p.m. and included 30-35 students in addition to a few teachers. The panel discussion included Sterrs, Chief Operating Officer Steve Price, Stephen Decatur High School Principal Tom Zimmer and Stephen Decatur High School assistant principal Ryan Cowder.

“The forum at Stephen Decatur High School was a great opportunity to have a direct question and answer session with the board of education,” Michael Mareno, one of the school board’s student representatives and a senior at Stephen Decatur High School, said. “We shared ideas and talked about ways to improve school safety.”

Mareno said the importance of communication and the implementation of school safety procedures should be discussed during orientation days and parent conferences.

In addition, a number of students have vowed to reach out to those who sit alone in the cafeteria or have no one to talk with in the hallways.

“I will always make school safety a top priority,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said. “We will do everything in our power. Those kids are going to be protected, if it’s the last thing I do.”

Along the same lines, the Worcester County Board of Education voted in closed session to accept an in-kind donation of 30 emergency response shields from the Pocomoke-based company, Hardwire, LLC.

“The pilot program would outfit Pocomoke High School with 30 emergency response shields strategically placed throughout the building in the event of a crisis,” Sterrs said.

According to Sterrs, donation stipulations include “a robust training program for staff, students and law enforcement partners on proper usage of the apparatuses; a comprehensive evaluation of the program at the conclusion of the pilot (June 30, 2018); and the ability to make adjustments to apparatus placement at no cost to the district based on the pilot’s evaluation results.”

The vote on Tuesday took place a few hours after a school shooting occurred at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County.

After hearing the news from local law enforcement, Taylor spoke with Worcester County’s principals Tuesday morning and planned to meet with them after school that day as well.

“The most forward-thinking ideas about school safety and gun violence are coming from students,” school board member Doug Dryden said.

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