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Event Promotes Teaching Homeland Security in High School

A group of high school educators from across Maryland are convening this Friday at an emergency-operations center for a conference on teaching about homeland security and emergency preparedness, with an eye toward preparing more students for jobs in this sector.

It's a relatively small affair, with just 30 teachers confirmed so far. But Joan Michel, who is helping to organize the event in Reistertown, Md., says interest is growing rapidly in teaching the Maryland State Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Curriculum. First launched in 2007 in Harford County, it's now offered in public schools in eight more counties, she said, including Montgomery (in suburban Washington), Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel.

"We're at a point now where enough school systems have the program that the number of graduates will expand exponentially," said Michel, who works for the nonprofit Central Maryland Homeland Security Educational Alliance.

The conference is intended for current and future teachers of the curriculum, as well as guidance counselors and school administrators.

The curriculum starts with a yearlong course titled Foundations of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Here, students are taught historical and contemporary perspectives and guidelines for homeland security, comparing and contrasting cultural and sociological perspectives, and methodologies used for intelligence gathering. Upon completion, they may pursue one of three pathways for additional coursework:

• Homeland Security Sciences;

• Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement; and

• Information/Communications Technology.

In the first pathway, Michel notes, "they're learning about forensic science, learning about how science relates to the homeland-security field, fingerprinting, investigations."

Michel said the program has benefited from a "high level of engagement" among the emergency-response community. In Anne Arundel, she notes that the advisory board includes U.S. Cyber Command personnel, industry representatives, and the sheriff's department. "These people are extremely engaged with the school and with the students," she said.

The conference on Friday features speakers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as state and county officials in emergency management, among others.

In one presentation, Michel notes, participants will learn about all the homeland-security planning that went into the Sailabration, part of the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812 that involved dozens of ships coming into Baltimore.

Michel said she's not aware of other states following suit with their own programs for teaching homeland security and emergency preparedness in high school, but said she would not be surprised if they have emerged.

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