The Maryland State Board of Education yesterday heard an update on school safety initiatives aimed at improving school safety through a variety of statewide standards and guidelines. As previously reported on Conduit Street, SB 1265, Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, passed the General Assembly on the final day of the 2018 legislative session and was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan.
Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS)
MCSS is made an independent unit within MSDE. The bill transfers some of the center’s existing duties to the subcabinet, and adds the following duties to MCSS’s charge:
- assist local school systems to identify resources and implement training for students and parents about relationship violence, identifying the signs of unhealthy relationships, and preventing relationship violence;
- analyze data on SROs and develop guidelines for local school systems regarding the assignment and training of SROs;
- certify school safety coordinators;
- consult with local school systems on safety evaluations;
- review and comment on school emergency plans; and
- report on life-threatening incidents that occur on public school grounds.
The bill establishes a School Safety Subcabinet, which also serves as the governing board for the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS). The State Superintendent or designee chairs the subcabinet and the Executive Director of MCSS provides staff.
The subcabinet is charged with multiple responsibilities, chief among them (1) collaborating with various stakeholders to provide a comprehensive, coordinated approach to school safety; (2) initiating collaborative partnerships and facilitating coordination among stakeholders to leverage existing resources to deliver school safety services uniformly to local school systems; (3) distributing grants from the Safe Schools Fund; and (4) adopting regulations to carry out its responsibilities. The subcabinet must submit an annual report with specified information.
The subcabinet is also given responsibility for making grants for security-related expenses to schools and child care centers at risk of hate crimes under Chapter 732 of 2016; the bill authorizes the Governor to transfer $1.0 million from the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) for this purpose.
The School Safety Subcabinet Advisory Board is established and includes a broad array of stakeholders to advise and assist the subcabinet in carrying out its duties. A member of the advisory board may not receive compensation but is entitled to reimbursement of expenses.
School Safety and Security Funding Overview
- $2.5 million in safety assessment grants to be administered by MCSS
- $10 million in MSDE administered school safety grants
- $10 million in grants to be administered by the Maryland Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) for safety-related operating and capital projects
- $10 million in school safety improvement grants provided in the capital budget
- $10 million in mandated funding in FY 2019 and beyond for school resource officers (SROs) and other local law enforcement strategies to provide adequate school coverage. MCSS will provide grants to local school systems and law enforcement agencies to meet the SRO/law enforcement coverage requirements. Grants must be made based on the proportion of public schools in each jurisdiction.
- Minimum of $2 million for 13 new positions at the Maryland Center for School Safety
School Resource Officers
A school resource officer is defined as (1) a law enforcement officer assigned to a school in accordance with a memorandum of understanding between a local law enforcement agency and a local school system or (2) a Baltimore City School Police Officer, as defined in current law. By September 1, 2018, MCSS, in consultation with local school systems, must develop a specialized curriculum to be used in training SROs that addresses specified issues. The curriculum must be submitted to the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission (MPTSC) for approval. By March 1, 2019, MCSS must develop and submit to MPTSC for approval a model training program based on the curriculum. Each local law enforcement agency must enroll SROs either in (1) the MCSS model training program or (2) a local training program approved by MPTSC that is consistent with the approved curriculum. All SROs must complete an approved specialized training program by September 1, 2019.
MCSS must collect specified data on SROs and, by December 15, 2018, develop guidelines based on its analysis of the data to assist local school systems in (1) determining the appropriate number and assignment of SROs, including supplemental coverage by local law enforcement agencies and (2) collaborating and communicating with local law enforcement agencies. By July 1, 2019, each local school system must develop a plan in
consultation with local law enforcement to implement the guidelines and submit its plan to MCSS for review and comment.
Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, and each school year thereafter, each local school system must file a report with MCSS before the school year begins that demonstrates (1) that each public school has an SRO assigned to the school or (2) if no SRO is assigned to a public school, that adequate local law enforcement coverage will be provided to the school. MCSS must submit annual summaries of the SRO reports it receives to the Governor and General Assembly.
Deadlines: Center & Subcabinet
According to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), it is on track to meet the implementation deadlines outlined in the legislation.
Model Policy for Assessment Teams
By September 1, 2018, the subcabinet must develop a model policy for the establishment of one or more assessment teams in each local school system. The model policy must include specified provisions generally related to (1) the identification of, and intervention with, students or other individuals who may pose a threat to school safety; (2) the composition and appropriate number of assessment teams within local school systems; and (3) training for the assessment teams.
By September 1, 2019, each local school system must adopt a policy for the establishment of assessment teams that is consistent with the model policy. Local policies must include:
- a process for regular assessment and intervention, including diversion and de-escalation, if an individual exhibits behavior that may pose a threat to school safety;
- standards for timely response and procedures for coordination among members of the team, including referral of relevant information to appropriate authorities; and
- standards and procedures for the referral of an individual for evaluation, services, or treatment when appropriate.
Deadlines: School System
School Safety Evaluations and Emergency Plans
Each local school system must designate a school safety coordinator, who must be certified by MCSS and serve as the liaison between the local school system, local law enforcement, and MCSS. By June 15, 2019, and regularly thereafter, each local school system must conduct a safety evaluation of each school to (1) identify and, if necessary, develop solutions for physical safety concerns and (2) identify and evaluate any patterns of safety concerns on school property or at school-sponsored events. In conducting the safety evaluations, each safety coordinator must consult with MCSS, coordinate with IAC, and submit a summary of the completed evaluations to MCSS.
MSDE must update the Emergency Planning Guidelines for Local School Systems by December 1, 2019, to reflect the initial findings from local safety evaluations.
By July 1, 2020, and regularly thereafter, each local school system must update the school emergency plan for each public school. The plans must conform to the MSDE guidelines regarding how the school will address behavioral threats and emergency events. In updating the plans, local school systems must work with MCSS to correct any identified weaknesses.
School safety evaluations, emergency plans, and local law enforcement coverage policies are not subject to inspection under the Maryland Public Information Act, except by designated State agencies, emergency management agencies, and local law enforcement in the performance of their official duties.
Mental Health Services
By September 1, 2018, each local school system must appoint a mental health services coordinator to coordinate existing mental health services and referral procedures within the local school system. Working with specified local entities, the coordinator must (1) ensure that a student who is referred for mental health services obtains the necessary services; (2) maximize external funding for mental health and wraparound services, as defined by the bill; and (3) develop plans for delivering behavioral health and wraparound services to students who exhibit specified behaviors of concern. Grants from the Safe Schools Fund may be used to develop plans for delivering mental health and wraparound services.
The bill requires the subcabinet to review the local plans for delivering behavioral health and wraparound services (discussed above) and identify gaps in the availability of services and providers for school-age children in the State by December 1, 2018. It also requires the Kirwan Commission to include in its final report (due December 31, 2018) recommendations for additional mental health and wraparound services in local school systems and funding required for those services.