PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — Just a month into the school year, Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) leaders held a virtual meeting to address school safety concerns Tuesday night.
“We send our children here in these facilities to get educated not to come home in a body bag,” said PGCPS parent Phyllis Wright.
This comes days after a student brought a loaded gun to Fairmont Heights High School, and two weeks after 16-year-old Jayda Medrano-Moore was shot and killed just a few feet away from DuVal High School.
Safety is a top concern for PGCPS parents, and recent incidents have many of them worried.
“What are you all doing to make sure that when I give you my child, that they come home in the manner that I sent them to you?” Said parent Janna Parker. “We have continued issues of guns being found on children when they’re coming into school, and you know, just a general fear for all parents right now.”
New safety changes were implemented this school year, such as clear backpacks and metal detectors in some schools. Superintendent Millard House II said the metal detectors will be installed in some middle schools and all high schools in different phases.
The school system installed metal detectors two days after the incident near DuVal High School. It was originally scheduled for October.
Parents like Wright say all schools should have them installed quicker to prevent any safety issues from happening again.
“They need them in all of our schools. I’m worried every day I drop my kids off. My main concern is if they’re going to be safe inside the building and when they’re leaving,” she said.
During Tuesday’s virtual PGCPS safety forum, House said the supply chain issues are one reason they have to install the metal detectors in phases. They expect all high schools to have them by November, and some middle schools to have them by Spring.
“If these items were available immediately we would probably move forward with the installation immediately,” said House.
Other parents brought up the need for better mental health resources to help students deal with their issues.
“Taking a deep dive into looking at what you’re doing in the school to teach conflict resolution to really teach personal interpersonal skills into personal engagement, anger management, grief management, depression management to the children,” said Parker.
This was also addressed by school leaders. Associate Superintendent for PGCPS Student Services Elizabeth Faison says they even trained some teachers on how to apply social and emotional learning lessons in the everyday classroom.
“It really helps our students learn the basics of about self-management, about learning their emotions, about good decision making… in a way that leads to positive healthy results among one another,” said Faison.
During the meeting, House and many others emphasized the need for parents and the community to get involved in the lives of students and help make schools safer together.
“Anything that threatens the safety of students and staff is quite frankly unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” House said.
You can view the entire meeting here.