mONTGOMERY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Montgomery Public Schools are Safe
By David Zaslawsky
The Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) district is a very safe place for its nearly 32,000 students and that statement comes from someone who knows the in and outs of crime.
Montgomery Police Chief Kevin J. Murphy said that the overwhelming incidents that are handled by uniform police officers at the various schools are so minor that there is no report – no paperwork.
“Most of their (officers at schools) day is taken up by settling disputes,” Murphy said. “I think sometimes we have a tendency to hear only the worst cases and that’s not necessarily the norm. Those cases get the headlines; they do get the publicity, but in reality it is a small percentage of what we have to handle in the school system.”
Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson said that the “media sensationalizes the things that are inappropriate behavior.”
Murphy said that officers may deal with such mundane things as students being outside a classroom without a pass or permission or sometimes students get involved in arguments that don’t escalate into a physical altercation. He said that an officer will escort the student to the office and have a teacher or someone else mediate. That’s it – that’s about as far as most things go.
“If you have a student population of 600 or 700 at a school and one kid gets into trouble – starts a fight or pushes somebody – does that make the other
599 students violent?” Murphy asked. “We as a society have a tendency to paint everybody with the same brush. You cannot do that.”
He gave another example of a student shoving a teacher and being expelled. “Does that make the whole school rotten? No, it does not.” He said some may think that is a bad school, but “that is not true.”
Someone may call MPS a dangerous school system, but Murphy said “based on what? Population? Then it’s one of the safest in the country. The private schools – they have their challenges, too.”
The school district brought in metal detectors and Thompson said that a dress code makes it obvious who belongs on campus and who doesn’t, which bolsters overall safety.
There is at least one officer assigned to each high school and middle school in the district. The officers and Montgomery Police Department work closely with the Montgomery County Board of Education. Murphy said the department takes a “holistic approach” by interacting with faculty, students and parents. The Montgomery Public Schools district has 51 uniformed security officers.
Thompson said the district has “an incredible working relationship” with the Montgomery Police Department. She said the police department’s involvement “goes far beyond what you expect from a police force.”
The police department’s School Security Bureau, which includes 14 officers and three supervisors, was moved from Juvenile Division to Patrol Division because of the nature of the offenses being handled, Murphy said. He said a lot of the incidents “were kids being kids and it didn’t seem like a good fit to be interwoven into an investigative body that looks into felonies.”
Murphy stressed that the violations the officers at schools deal with are called delinquent acts because the children are not charged with crimes. He said they are charged with delinquency.
The delinquent population for 2011 was 1.55 percent and for the current school year it is 1.81 percent. •