School security still a community matter

 - 
02/28/2009

So, I had a chance to sit down with Bob Hellmuth, the director of the department of school safety and security for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. This guy has quite the job. He's in charge of ensuring that the county's 200 schools are protected and its 21,000 employees and 138,000 students are kept safe. I asked him about the biggest challenges he faces, which of course involved technology (we were at TechSec after all, so technology was on the minds of all in attendance) and funding issues, but the point I found most interesting and perhaps often overlooked was the challenge of working with the community. He said about half of parents and community members want to see more security in schools and think schools aren't doing enough to protect their children, while the other half doesn't understand why the school has to video tape their children. Hellmuth said trying to communicate with the public about his security program is a balancing act between addressing the security needs of the school system and the concerns of the community. Look for a video interview with Bob on sdnTVnews as well as a more comprehensive article in our newswire and April edition.

Comments

In MCPS, most of the theft takes place in locker rooms and classrooms. The drug deals occur in restrooms and on the school buses. For obvious reasons, neither the locker rooms nor the restrooms are slated to have cameras. Cameras are also not going to be installed in classrooms or buses. So what will MCPS get for their money? They'll be able to watch students as they walk through the hallways and as they eat lunch, both of which are already monitored quite adequtely by staff members.

I know there's a lot of people who feel this way about security. During my discussion with Bob Hellmuth he said his biggest challenge was working with the community and maintaining the balance between people who want more security and those who want less. Security programs will never prevent everything, it's unrealistic to expect they will, but having a diligent security team in place means that the school can do its best to protect students and react effectively when something does happen. Unfortunately, there's not a perfect solution and, yes, security costs money. Thanks for your comment, too, by the way, it's always great to have these discussions.