EducationPrince George's County

Prince George’s Schools Hold Twitter Chat on Student Safety

Prince George’s County Public School officials used social media Monday to communicate its message of student safety on Twitter.

Using the hashtag #PGCPSSAFETY, school officials gave a forum for people to ask questions such as, “If there’s an incident that occurs, how do we inform parents?” Answer: School updates posted on website at http://pgcps.org, text alerts, robocalls and on its Twitter account which has 72,600 followers.

“When we had our tele-town hall, a lot of questions came in through Twitter,” said PGCPS spokeswoman Raven Hill. “We thought it would be good to speak to those followers.”

Rex Barrett, director of security services, was the lead school official to answer questions during the hourlong online discussion.

On Oct. 3, schools received online threats that resulted in the arrest of a Parkdale High School student and the discipline of another student at Bladensburg High School, according to police.

The next day, officials held a one-hour telephone town hall on the same subject, with nearly 12,000 participants.

Several schools also held forums to discuss social media etiquette with parents and students.

Besides online incidents, school officials have dealt with allegations of child abuse, neglect and other offenses, which caused a federal agency to take away more than $6 million in funding from the county’s Head Start program. The school system will institute a similar program called “Early Start” and serve 855 students at 35 sites.

Meanwhile, the Twitter chat posed questions on staff training and fingerprinting procedures.

One participant asked, “What steps are being taken to assure the wrong people aren’t hired?”

The school system’s response: “We’ve implemented an enhanced background procedures 2 include CPS clearance procedure and criminal history checks.”

Two parent-teacher-student organizations at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie and Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro posted questions about bus safety, emergency drills, social media education for parents and how many employees are on administrative leave due to investigations by Child Protective Services.

Regarding buses, inspections are conducted at bus lots or maintenance facilities.

School officials are planning a parent social media town hall, the details of which will be posted on the school system’s website.

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