Our schools are unsafe, it’s time for a change


April 16, 2024, 2:18 p.m. | By Bethel Ameha | 2 months ago

The importance of implementing student ID checking policies in MCPS schools


Image of Montgomery Blair High School Photo courtesy of Bethel Ameha.

On May 26, 2023, a man living in a homeless shelter roamed the halls and entered a girls' bathroom at Springbrook High School after following a parent and student through the main office. The man, looking for a girl he met at a nearby McDonald’s, entered and remained unnoticed in the high school building for at least 20 minutes. In the 2021-2022 school year, several students from around the county came into Walter Johnson High School and pulled the fire alarm. These security breaches exemplify Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) deficiencies in guaranteeing student safety.

Recently, MCPS has seen a rise in serious incidents such as assaults, weapon offenses, and sex offenses, increasing from 697 incidents in the 2021-22 school year to 1,700 in the 2022-23 school year. Preventing these occurrences is a priority, and a prime solution is to require student IDs at the entrance of schools.

Sami Saeed, the current Student Member of the Board of Education, and the student advisory have included these student ID checking policies in the new “Safe Schools Resolution”  proposed to the Board of Education. The goal of this resolution is to improve school safety for all students. Saeed plans to expand the current student ID program to include all MCPS high schools. 

At Blair, Student IDs are given out at the beginning of the year and are often never used again. However, Walter Johnson, Bethesda Chevy Chase, Seneca Valley, Rockville, and Richard Montgomery have already implemented an ID-checking policy. Sarah Minicozzi, a sophomore at RM explains how this initiative works. “You just have to take it out and then hold it up so they [security] can see it when you walk in. In the morning they send you to the office if you don’t have it,” Minicozzi says. Overall, Student ID-checking policies were made with the goal of providing safety for students and must be implemented at all MCPS schools.

Safety

MCPS is committed to “providing for the safety of all persons on Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) property and creating and maintaining safe, peaceful schools and workplaces where students and staff can do their best work, achieve, and thrive.” But with unregulated school entry, student safety is at risk.

An ID-checking policy ensures school safety and ensures that students will feel comfortable and motivated to learn. This policy keeps trespassers away, including students from other schools and potentially dangerous individuals. Junior Leah Negash explains her discomfort when seeing students from other schools at Blair. “When I saw the students, I was pretty surprised that they managed to get in…It felt a little bit weird how someone could easily get into the school without having the proper student ID,” Negash says. Though these outside students don’t always cause harm, the fact that they are in the school building itself is still dangerous. 

Sami Saed, the current Student Member of the Board of Education recalls a situation at RM where a former student entered the school building with a handgun in his backpack. Saeed speaks about how he believes this initiative will only bring safety to students. “You have to check IDs almost anywhere you go in the real world and the fact that for schools where students attend we don’t have a program where you have to verify the identity of the people in the building, I think it’s honestly a big security issue,” Saeed says. This resolution was proposed by Saeed on Oct. 26 and was passed by the Board of Education on Nov. 9. The impact of this resolution on schools such as Blair is yet to be determined.

Valery Montenegro-Hernandez, Blair senior and Communications Director for the SMOB advisory council, describes her experience with trespassing at Blair and how ID programs would be beneficial. “I remember one time there was a grown adult that once walked on our campus during lunch. It just prevents issues like that from happening once again, just to make sure that the school remains a safe environment for students and teachers,” Montenegro says.

Already, the ID-checking policy has already proven effective at implemented schools. Saeed discusses its positive impact on RM’s safety. “Students at other schools who were trying to enter the school … have been deterred from doing so because they saw security guards checking IDs,” he explains.

Still, merely checking IDs is not a silver bullet solution. Richard Montgomery sophomore Sascha Wadhams is concerned whether or not security guards are able to check the validity of students' IDs. “It's really hard for the security guard to be able to see whether or not it’s like a real ID. And I know people have literally flashed a business card and they’ve gotten in,” Wadhams says. 

Concerns with Crowds

Increased ID enforcement raises concerns of the possibility of overcrowded spaces. Junior Renim Risku from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School had concerns similar to Wadhams. She explains how the program needs to be enforced with better strictness. “If it was more strict, it would have been more beneficial, because sometimes security guards aren’t completely asking everybody and there’s so many people at my school and everybody coming in at the same time might not be as beneficial,” she says.

Anna Jhon, a sophomore at Walter Johnson High School touches upon the need for a better execution of this initiative to avoid concerns with wait time. “I think it’s important to make sure who is coming in and out of the building. But I do wish that there was a better way that they could execute it so it wouldn’t take as much time from the students,” she explains.

These concerns were not evident when this initiative was implemented at Blair in the early 2000s, where the policy proved efficient even with a large student population. Adrian Kelly, head of security at Blair mentions explains how the program worked. “Working at Blair since 2002, in security from 2006 to now, we had to have mandatory ID where it was a protocol for students in the building, dealing with that situation it was because of the safety issue to make sure students are who they say they are,” Kelly says. 

Kelly touches upon people's concern over a possible wait time with this new policy. “I mean, it’s going to be a line but it’s no complication man, like the line is what it is,” he says. “It’s definitely helpful if you know certain staff doesn’t recognize certain students. So it’s definitely helpful to know the students that walk in the hall go to Blair.”

The ID program could open up more extreme alternatives as well. Blair security guard, Marcus Johnson, talks about how he would prefer students to have their ID’s on at all times. “We could see who’s in school, who’s not in school because when visitors come in they’re gonna have a visitor’s pass and it’s noticeable. So if they don’t have it then we can know that they didn’t check into the building,” he explains.

With how big Blair is, it’s much easier for anyone to blend in with the crowd and come into the school, which increases the need for an ID-checking policy. A school should always feel safe and should not allow any random person to walk in. The safety and security of all students is the priority of MCPS, and student IDs are a primary solution to any potential dangers.

Last updated: April 16, 2024, 2:20 p.m.



Bethel Ameha. Hi, my name is Bethel Ameha and I'm on the writing staff. I play two sports at Blair, both soccer and volleyball. I enjoy reading and listening to music. I love going out with my friends as well! More »

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