MHS knows the importance of safety in schools

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Bang! Pop! Zing! These are the sounds that could well describe gun shots. Shots that could possibly be at a firing range, forest, or even inside a public school.

Teachers start to yell and students run around in frenzy, everyone trying to take cover. No one knew this day would come, surprising each student and staff member. But teachers do remember that protocol needs to be put in place, and they get to work to keep these kids safe.

Recent domestic violence in schools around the United States has brought up awareness to the safety of students and faculty members. The arousal of rumors and threats in all schools has made the staff and local officers stand on guard for any potential terrorizations.

Specific teachers and staff that keep the kids safe daily include principals, assistant principals, and even the resource officer. Each staff member gave an opinion on whether Middletown High school is a safe environment or not.

“Schools in Frederick County are safe compared to some other parts of the country,” said Brooke Hontz, MHS assistant principal.

Chris Bittner, another MHS assistant principal, agrees with Hontz on how safe MHS is. He said that protocol is in place at all times under the direction of Frederick County Public Schools security.

Protocol would include asking specific questions when someone enters the building. If the receptionists are familiar or trust the person, then the questions might be shorter. If the adult or person is unknown, then the MHS receptionists have to ask basic interrogative questions such as, “Who are you and why are you here?”

Darleen Spangler, MHS receptionist, said that she keeps the school safe by “monitoring visitors that come in, and if we don’t know them, we ask for identification. We ask for the reason for entering the school, and keep a watchful eye” on them.

It is mandatory for every staff member to make sure protocol is in place at all times. Without it, an unexpected attack could potentially through the teachers off guard, and damage could be worse.

Deputy Andy Smothers, the resource officer of MHS said, “I feel Middletown High School is very safe. I do a lot of walking, patrolling, and listening to staff and students.”

Smothers tries to meet with the staff and administration almost every day to update and stay in tune for any information that is happening in and outside of school. Smothers mainly just wants to stay present, and maintain visibility.

“So, we [the staff and Smothers] stay close knit and we work together to keep our school safe,” Smothers said.

While the staff of MHS stays closely knit to keep the students of MHS safe, they must also follow many procedures to stay on guard.

“There is literally a three-page document with a list of things that we go around and check on,” Bittner said.

MHS conducts up to 16 drills each school year. The drills are supposed to be practiced as if a real situation were to occur, but many students act as if the drills are a joke.

Bittner said that all adolescents have some immaturity, so adults have to be strict and enforce the rules to practice the drill in a forthright manner in case the situation were to be a true emergency.

The main types of drills that are held in the school include fire drills, lockdown drills and extreme weather drills.

“What we do is based on the situation itself,” said Smothers. “You have to be ready to be put in any of these situations at any given time.”

Smothers said that students complain about specific drills being conducted each month. There are reasons for the drills, though. Staff and administration are trying to make students aware of what they can do in these situations.

To help with different types of emergencies, buttons can be placed in school buildings. The main intent of the buttons would be to stay in communication with the central office, even if it’s just to notify it that there is any kind of emergency. Before the arrival off the fire rescue and police, the administration has to make hasty decisions to keep the students and staff at safe. The emergency buttons are just a faster way of notifying the authorities about a situation.

FCPS has received a $15,000 dollar mitigation grant so that the buttons can be placed in the schools. Even with the high range of cost, Bittner said, “If it’s something that really doesn’t increase our response time then it’s not worth putting the money in and we can put in some other security mechanism that would be more effective.”

There is one currently in the front office of MHS, and it is easier to flip the plastic screen than dialing 911. Hontz said that the buttons haven’t been activated yet, and that the staff hasn’t been trained on how to use them. “We need to see what the intent of the button is before we really use them.”

If the emergency buttons already present in the school seem to not work, there are fire alarms and telephones in every classroom. These can still be used as a way to contact the authorities in a quick manor for any type of situation.

To stay safe though from any type of domestic violence in school, students and staff just need to keep a keen eye open and pay attention.

Hontz said, “If you know that someone is acting strange, or if you see something, or you hear about something, report it… You need to be aware and you need to read body language. You need to be very vigilant about what is going on around you and then know how to respond to a situation if something occurs.”