Up in smoke?


FCPS is taking new safety steps to prevent vaping in bathrooms and create quicker responses to security threats.

Revolutionary changes are coming to FCPS.
Recently, new programs and safety measures have been launched to combat the rise in disciplinary incidents and ensure student safety.
During a school board meeting on April 27, superintendent Michelle Reid provided an update on new safety and security measures that the county is implementing in preparation for the 2023-24 school year and beyond.
Reid announced that FCPS is currently in the process of a pilot program for vape detection devices. These devices would presumably be placed in bathrooms across middle and high schools across the county.
Reid was cautiously optimistic about the impact of these vape sensors, acknowledging that they are potentially useful but possibly not the answer as well.
“This will immediately detect use at our schools and we are monitoring its effectiveness right now,” Reid said.
However, Reid continued to state that the sensors have yielded mixed results so far and that the county is not certain that the sensors are the answer.
“Effectiveness of strategies like vape detectors to reduce vaping are still under investigation. I would suggest that alone, they are not a substitute or fix-all solution. Detectors should be part of a larger strategy that includes evidence-based education and counseling, enforcement, etc,” SRO David Curcio said.
Vaping has developed into a pressing issue for AHS and all of FCPS. Parents and school board members have been increasingly concerned with the presence of marijuana and tobacco products within school environments, and furthermore, with the threat of overdose.
There have been reports of vaping cartridges being laced with fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid that can be lethal in small doses, leading to students overdosing across FCPS.
Additionally, Reid announced that FCPS is exploring a drone pilot program.
The program is being launched in efforts to aid the school system’s incident response team. In theory, the drones could be sent into sights that aren’t immediately secured following an incident or threat to relay information back to the division security staff.
During the meeting, Reid did not go into detail about the potential costs of the program or a timetable for its implementation, although it’s clear that if successful, this program could be beneficial for the long-term safety of FCPS buildings and the FCPS community.
Furthermore, Reid re-upped on the school board’s commitment to cameras across all FCPS buildings. Currently, all FCPS high schools have exterior video cameras installed, and video cameras are set to be installed at all middle schools across the county by the end of the current school year.
“I think cameras are important for the safety of students at AHS and across all schools in the county, they deter violence and illegal incidents, and can help security and police efforts to resolve such incidents and keep everyone safe,” junior Zach Plank said.
Approximately half of the elementary schools across the FCPS currently have security cameras installed. FCPS is currently in the process of applying for a federal grant to add cameras at ten more schools and ultimately the entirety of elementary schools in FCPS.
“Cameras inside and outside the building should also not be relied upon along; they, too, must be part of a larger overall safety/security plan/strategy. For example, cameras should be monitored by a live person who can relay real-time information to responding security/law enforcement personnel,” Curcio said.
Furthermore, FCPS is partnering with an external third party to conduct a safety review audit of all schools and FCPS buildings. The third party will review all processes, procedures, and infrastructure for their safety and security.
As a result of the assessment, the third party will make observations and recommendations for any potential necessary improvements to the county’s safety and security procedures. It is expected that the audit will be complete by the end of July 2023.
FCPS ‘apparent commitment to safety and security for all teachers and students across all school buildings is a positive indicator of change on the way in 2023-24 and beyond.