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Important Letter from BMHS President regarding School Safety
Posted 03/12/2018 11:30AM

Dr. Marco Clark '85, President/CEO of Bishop McNamara High School talks about school safetyDear Bishop McNamara faculty, staff, students, parents, and community,

These are indeed turbulent times, and as a Catholic Holy Cross school rooted in Gospel values, Bishop McNamara High School stands in solidarity with those who would be agents of change and conversion in a culture of violence that is destroying innocent lives. In these troubled times, we find ourselves seeking comfort in loved ones; we pray for peace, love and justice, and we find ways to bring hope.

We also mourn those that have been lost. We need to pray: We pray for those who lost their lives in Parkland, and all those who mourn for them. We pray for an end to all violence and senseless killing of young people in schools. We pray that politicians and leaders would work harder to put the safety and wellbeing of students first; the right to life, to live, before other rights. We need to teach the truth to students in our schools, to their parents and to all people in society.

In the wake of the recent and tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, I was asked to comment on the topic of school safety. I shared details with Crux Now and the National Catholic Reporter about the policies that our School had regarding intruders on campus, both past and present. In the past, administrators used a code over the P.A. system that faculty and staff would recognize and be covertly alerted to an intruder's presence, unbeknownst to that person. Students were trained to get under some kind of cover and wait for the crisis to be over.

These days, we have to look at and react to these situations very differently.

Our current policy is to alert the entire school community the moment an intruder is on the premises – not to cause panic, but to ensure that the entire community safely avoids that person and gets to safety as quickly as possible. Not only that, but we are taking a proactive approach to training our faculty and staff – as well as our parents and students – to prepare them in case they should ever encounter such a situation. Though of course we hope and pray that such a time never comes.

We will not deter guests from visiting our campus; but we will ensure that any and all visitors are screened at the front office before being permitted to continue to walk through our building. They will be escorted by a faculty or staff member, and we will take appropriate measures – with local authorities if necessary – when someone must be removed from campus. All exterior doors remain locked throughout the day and the gates to the parking lot are closed to allow the free-flow of students walking to and from the various buildings on our campus. We will also continue to work closely with the local police authorities, our on-site security, and our video surveillance to be even more vigilant. Finally, we will be contracting with a security specialist to conduct an audit of our campus to identify those areas that may be vulnerable and to recommend additional best practices in school safety.

When asked about the best ways to prepare and prevent such tragedies, my response to the Catholic News Service is that we must know, love and serve our students. We must build a trusting and open dialogue with our students. Students must be empowered and engaged in their learning environment. And we must make it known to all that Christ is the reason for our school. I am confident that each and every student in our building has someone they can confide in and that they have someone they can turn to either as a whistleblower or to raise our awareness about a concern. Faith, hope, love, trust, charity and prayer--that is the answer.

As students in several schools nationwide prepare for protests and walkouts, many accuse their school administrations of not taking enough action to protect them; many accuse their school administrations of turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to their cries of concern and protest.

To our students and parents at Bishop McNamara High School – I want to be absolutely clear: You are being heard. It is important that our students talk with us. Catholic schools are places where young people learn truth and how to dialogue about that truth with others. Catholic schools form students with values and a lived experience of how faith impacts life; and today more than ever there is need to solve differences and problems through dialogue and not through violence.

I am proud of our students for coming together in open forums to discuss meaningful ways to bring about change in society and for launching the #Enough campaign to raise awareness on issues of violence. I am proud of the thought and preparation they have put into an open display of solidarity and prayer against gun violence and those forces that challenge our culture of life. Gun control is a pro-life issue and as a Catholic school committed to a culture of life, I am proud of their commitment to raising awareness around these issues. You are answering the call as men and women with hope to bring. You are Mustangs for LIFE!

Many in our community are also asking for more training and support in the event of an unwelcome intruder. You are calling for more support for mental health in our nation, or are taking stands against bullying, or are making statements about gun reform. I assure you all, we as a school make love, kindness and the dignity, safety and security of all our top priority.

Bishop McNamara High School has also joined with hundreds of other Catholic and independent schools in the Greater Washington, D.C. area and Maryland to take a stand against gun violence. An open letter drafted by the leadership of the Association of Independent Schools of Maryland (AIMS) and the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) will be published in the Baltimore Sun on March 14th and in the Washington Post on March 18th. We are proud to lock arms with our brothers and sisters from these schools to speak out against gun violence. Our children deserve this.

Finally, it can go without saying that the faculty and staff at Bishop McNamara, as Holy Cross educators, embrace the education of the hearts and the minds of our students while helping them to recognize that they are bringers of hope. I pray that we continue to inculcate these principles and that regardless of what's happening in the world, our learners, our family, will at all times look for the hope in all things. Let us carry on the legacy of the Brothers of Holy Cross by embracing the four pillars into our daily lives – to be family, build respect, educate our hearts and minds, and to be people with hope to bring.

I pray that this letter and our continued dialogue reminds everyone to BE that family member to the student that sits alone, to listen to those who struggle in their homes and find hope and comfort at school, to be mindful of the information you share on social media, and to express the way in which you see hope in and for others.

Let us as Holy Cross men and women lead the world in a counter-cultural movement of universal acceptance and kindness. Keep the faith in your Bishop McNamara, and I promise it will never be misplaced.

Saint Andre Bessette...pray for us.

Blessed Father Moreau...pray for us.

Ave Crux Spes Unica!

Bishop McNamara High School
6800 Marlboro Pike, Forestville, MD 20747
Phone: 301.735.8401
Fax: 301.735.0934
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