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McConkey’s motion for armed safety advocates fails

Calvert County Board of Education members Kelly McConkey and Tracy McGuire

Prince Frederick, MD - Reacting to ongoing concerns about the vulnerability of schools to gun violence, Calvert County Board of Education (BOE) member Kelly McConkey made a motion at the panel’s March 22 meeting. During the board comments segment, McConkey extended condolences to those in St. Mary’s County affected by the March 20 shooting incident at Great Mills High School. Two students—including the gunman—died as a result of the shooting and another was wounded. Credit is being given to a St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office deputy, serving as a liaison officer, for engaging the gunman and preventing any further tragedy. “Right now the most important thing is focusing in on school safety,” said McConkey, who noted the Calvert County Commissioners have pledged a $2 million allocation to equip all schools with addition safety components. McConkey added that he was hopeful the BOE would match that $2 million. “These things are all going to take time to get in place,” said McConkey. “In my opinion, we haven’t got time.”

McConkey stated that after speaking with the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, he learned there is something that could be done immediately to make schools safer—allow Calvert County Public Schools’ (CCPS) safety advocates to carry guns in schools. Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans did confirm to TheBayNet.com that is the action he would like to see the BOE take.

According to the CCPS’ summary of the safety advocate’s job, the individual serving in that position “provides a proactive means of meeting the needs of the students, staff and community of Calvert County Public Schools. Employing a wealth of professional expertise, the safety advocate serves as a student advocate and advisor. Rather than punish or suspend students, the safety advocate provides support and counsel to the total school community. Additionally, the safety advocate assists the staff and administration in maintaining a safe and orderly school environment that best facilitates academic achievement.” The job synopsis also states that “experience working with children and law enforcement required.” 

McConkey’s motion was to “let our safety advocates that are already trained officers be armed in our schools to protect our kids and our staff.” The motion did not receive a second from any of the three other board members at the meeting and thus died.
Board member William Phalen paid the only lip service offered on the issue during his closing remarks by stating that “safety is a high priority in our schools. We are looking at items that are long-lasting.”

Calvert BOE President Tracy McGuire stated that CCPS has five deputies assigned to the county’s public schools. A school police liaison officer is assigned to each high school, while a fifth—liaison supervisor Cpl. Glenn Libby—handles all other schools, including Calvert Country Schools and the Career & Technology Academy. “We didn’t disarm any school liaison officer,” McGuire told TheBayNet.com. McGuire said a response to the community about the BOE majority’s decision to not approve arming safety advocates would be forthcoming. When asked why she and the other members didn’t at least engage McConkey in a discussion on his motion, McGuire—speaking for herself—stated, “that is certainly a choice a board member could make. We didn’t see the need to discuss something we weren’t going to do.”

"Normally on important issues such as these, board members request that the issue be formally put on the agenda and then board members can prepare for a thoughtful discussion," BOE member Dawn Balinski stated. "Kelly's motion was made as part of the end-of-meeting board comment section and therefore little discussion followed."

In an email Balinski is sending out to constituents who contacted her expressing displeasure for the BOE's lack of discourse at the March 22 meeting, Balinski outlined her concerns about arming school system employees. "We all want the same thing---to ensure the safety of our precious children---and we need to come together to do what’s best to protect them. I know many of you feel strongly that we should fight guns with guns and it seems a quick and easy thing to do. However, more guns mean more risks of accidental shootings or the misreading of a chaotic event and mistaken death of an innocent person."

"I did not second Kelly's motion because I do not beleive that the answer to school safety is more guns in the schools," Phalen told TheBayNet.com. "Also we already have an armed school resource officer in each of our high schools as well as two safety advocates in each. The safety advocates are CCPS employees so [they] cannot carry weapons. Since the School Resource Officers are Sheriff's Department they can."

A group of Calvert citizens is planning to rally at the CCPS Central Office in Prince Frederick Monday morning, March 26 at 7:30 a.m. in hopes the school board members will reconsider.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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