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Safety in Numbers

District puts focus on security issues in wake of Feb. 3 incident

April 24, 2023

There will always be risks in life, even in places where we would expect that we are at our safest, something Dr. Suzanne Leake learned quickly in her duration as an administrator. Though not much can be concretely said about either the appearance of a firearm at the Feb. 2 Pink-out game, or the student responsible, what is known is that our principal, and administration as a whole, have evaluated this unfortunate and nerve-wracking event and plan to take the fullest order of action available.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career that I would say that discipline that involves threats to or I guess weapons or violence have been limited, but unfortunately, they have been there,” Dr. Leake said. “And this sounds crazy, because I obviously would never wish for those circumstances to happen, but each one I feel better prepares me for another. Because after an incident occurs, the team that has been involved, whoever that consists of, we always debrief and reflect … we try to make sure that, moving forward, we think of all the things that we would have done … differently in hindsight.”

Despite the chaos and concern brought on by this matter, the district is determined to do what is necessary when handling the present issue and everything it might entail.

“We all are under the expectations and the rules of what we call the COC, the Code of Conduct. And so … the school district will … follow through with what the Code of Conduct says, and [it] says that [possession of a firearm] is a level four offense, which can go all the way to an expulsion,” Dr. Leake said.

Not only will the district be conducting an investigation, but this will also be handled outside of the school, including a criminal investigation.

“[The student] will be charged…with possession of a firearm on school grounds,” Leake said. “There is currently a criminal case and a school case, as well.”

While there isn’t much to be found about the criminal investigation taking place, FHSD Superintendent, Dr. Kenneth Roumpos, takes pride in the district’s ability to respond to the appearance of these threats.

“We are seeing more ‘hoax threats’ being reported at some schools, whether that’s writing a threat on a bathroom wall, making social media threats, or telling a friend they are going to do something. These things are being reported at a much higher rate than in past years – not just for us but for other districts, too, and we just can’t let our guard down or get numb to these threats,” Dr. Roumpos said. “Every single one so far has been investigated and determined by law enforcement to be unfounded or not credible … Students are saying these things often in jest without understanding the consequences that come with it. And it’s not always just suspension. Many times charges are filed by law enforcement that stay on a student’s permanent record and can prevent them from going to college, getting a job, etc.”

Outside of the district-wide determinations being made to further ensure the safety of students and staff, Francis Howell Central has taken individual action to provide any extra security measures that might be necessary for after-school events.

“We have hired additional police to be at each of our home games, we have moved the visit-student section to the other side of the gym…and that was a decision because, after debriefing, to exit the gym you’re going right in front of the visitor-student section, [and] that is just an opportunity to be taunted,” Leake said. “You can only cross your opponents so many times before somebody is going to say something rude or disrespectful, we felt like it was an opportunity that we can take away.”

Along with these changes, there will also be more supervision from the administrative teams as well as coordinating with the other district schools about safety and organization.

“We have definitely empowered our building administrators to request additional law enforcement officers and security at certain events. Some schools are also adding a verification process (checking IDs, etc.) before allowing students to enter the event. We’ve really allowed each school to work with their teams to determine the specific enhancements that make sense for their buildings,” Dr. Roumpos said.

With all of these moving parts in action, the administration is constantly working to make school and events held on school property to be safe and secure, but according to Dr. Leake, persevering safety starts with the student body.

“The reason that we are safe here is not because of me, and it’s not because of one SRO. The reason we’re safe here is collectively together. We all take a lot of pride in our school and we hold each other accountable. I can’t tell somebody to make good choices and just know that they’re gonna make good choices because I told them to,” Dr. Leake said. “So, we hold each other accountable, and we’re just fortunate here, that we care about each other enough that we’re gonna do what’s right when it comes down to a situation that’s as serious as something like that.”


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