DC area parents say more security needed as kids go back to school following recent mass shootings

It's already back to school for many kids in the D.C. region but some students still have some time left to enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

Some of their parents are raising concerns about whether their child's school is doing more to tighten safety measures, both in and outside of the building.

FOX 5's Ayesha Khan has been speaking with parents who all have different concerns while keeping in mind, recent shootings, including one at McGruder High School back in January.

"There needs to be accommodations at every step when you are dealing with our developmentally disabled learners," said Esther Wells, a Montgomery County Public Schools parent of a 9-year-old boy.

"So for example, a child that is in a wheelchair during an active shooter, what does that look like? Because they physically cannot run to safety so what accommodations are there? It makes me nervous because I know with my son, that whenever he is placed in a stressful situation is he not as likely to comply and if there is an active shooter or if there is any crisis at school or shelter in place my son's knee jerk reaction is more going to be self soothe which may not be to be quiet or to stop twitching."

Khan reached out to MCPS for a response and was told in a statement:

"We serve students with disabilities who require specific aids, services, or accommodations during emergency evacuations or when a school crisis plan is being implemented. The student's specific needs are discussed when developing the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). The adults supporting that student are aware of that information and practice implementing those procedures when the school engages in drills. For example, a student who is sensitive to loud noises may require the use of noise canceling headphones and adult support when the fire alarm sounds. Those practices would be put in place during a drill in preparation for an actual crisis."

Jen Reesman, an MCPS parent of a 12-year-old student said that she wants more communication from MCPS and to physically be able to see what the school district has done to increase security and safety.

"When we hear the talk about what's being done, it's really hard to envision what that looks like," said Reesman.

"If you have no idea what the physical inside of the building looks like, then I think just true communication and community building is needed in making sure that we are welcoming parents safely back into the school so that when they talk about the drills they are doing or safety procedures, they are instituting what does that actually look like at my child's school."

In another statement to Fox 5, Christopher Cram, MCPS spokesperson stated:

"Safety is two-fold; People first think about physical safety such as someone who may wish to do bodily harm but equally important is social-emotional safety, students and staff must have both to perform at their highest levels. These two goals are the foundational element of our new Community Engagement Officer program. The police are in our schools, collaborating with school administrators and there to respond to any criminal activity but our school staff are there with restorative practices and code of conduct guidelines for disciplinary measures. We've enhanced opportunities and resources for mental health and wellness such as 34 more social workers and mindfulness rooms and we've enhanced our readiness for any potential school crisis through joint trainings with our police all summer long. The police have been taking our staff training courses around child abuse and neglect, we hosted a Safety Summit on July 25 with all police partners and the police have been training in our schools this summer for how to best respond to school based crisis such as a shooter or incidents in external structures such as athletic stadiums and portable classrooms."

Khan also spoke with Graham Dersley, a father of two MCPS students. Dersley said, his girls are used to participating in emergency drills, so he's not too concerned. he does want to know, how quickly can local police get to the school if there ever was a crisis, such as a mass shooting.

"I'm not sure that kids getting under their desk in three seconds versus five seconds is going to make a difference," said Dersley.

"I do think especially with police response, that should be something we look at, to make sure there's the training there, we saw what happened in Uvalde, there was that terrible delay so we don't want that to happen here."

"We are not actually adding officers but we are maintaining our presence in the schools," Marcus Jones, chief of police with the Montgomery County Police Department.

"We will have our officers as engaged they will be on school grounds. Again this is from our community engagement officers who are assigned to the school systems, they are cluster officers, so they respond to the different schools within that particular high school cluster, so it just won't be one school that will be check-ins, these will be communications with the principals and administrative staff at all of those schools to make sure there aren't any issues."

As far as some of the other school districts are concerned, khan reached out to prince george's county public schools and was told, Superintendent Monica Goldson will address safety on the first day of school.

Loudoun County Public Schools informed Khan that the school district does not reveal anything about its security systems out of safety concerns.