Open Letter Regarding School Safety

    The public school system is arguably one of our nation’s greatest institutions, a change agent and backdrop for social equality. Tasked with shaping the brilliant minds of our future, schools stand as prominent centerpieces in our community providing the foundation for opportunity and a sense of pride. Throughout history, they have risen to the occasion overcoming many of society’s greatest problems. They have shown us hope, courage, and inspiration. Sadly, they have also shown us some of our greatest vulnerabilities.

    As a leader, educator, and parent, I have seen firsthand school safety often starts at home. It begins as a kitchen table conversation that when necessary is taken to school administrators and law enforcement. It’s a regular conversation that addresses complex and difficult topics such as threats, bullying, and behavior health. As parents, we always listen, we always comfort. Admittedly, we don’t always have the answers.
    As Mayor of the City of Havre de Grace it’s my responsibility to set priorities and oversee the creation and implementation of policies that serve the good of the community. Public safety more specifically school safety has and remains my administration’s top priority. Safety is the cornerstone of our community. I can tell you with certainty we have the greatest and brightest Schools Resource Officers (SRO’s) serving in each of our four schools.  

    These officers are familiar faces in our community. Each officer receives training through the National Association of School Resource Officers to address and respond to the challenges facing our student population. This specialized training includes Single Officer Response to active shooter situations and Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training.  
    In addition to fulfilling their role as law enforcer they use what is known as the Triad Model which also includes educating students, and acting as informal counselors. This balance emphasizes positive community relations, working with school administrators to ensure campus security, and teaching students about our legal system. This approach also includes extra-curricular activities organized by SRO’s such as a summer safety camp program, The Bike Club, and The Safety Club.

    I must admit, as a father, I still worry. Like all parents, I worry about the unknown haunted by recent scenes from tragedies like the one we saw at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  
    While unknowns will always exist I take reassurance in the dedication and professionalism of our police department and school administrators and their ability to work together to take preventative measures to provide school safety.  
    I ask all parents to talk with your children about what’s happening at school. Let them know it’s okay to tell you about problems they are having or situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Let them know it’s okay to speak up and report any concerns they may have to a teacher, administrator or police officer.  
    Please introduce yourself to the School Resource Officer assigned to your child’s school. Please feel free to ask them any questions or report any concerns you or your child may have about school or community safety.  
    -Mayor William T. Martin