baltimoresun.com

March 29, 2011

Climate of violence pervades classrooms in urban district

The Philadeliphia Inquirer published a story today about how violence has fueled chaos in its city schools.  According to the story, the Inquirer spent a year interviewing and surveying hundreds of teachers, parents, students, and education experts violence in the district.

The Inquirer also commissioned an independent survey by Temple University that sampled 750 teachers and aides - 6 percent of the 13,000 the district employs. According to the story today, "more than two-thirds of those who responded to the survey reported that the violence and disruption in their building hindered their students' ability to learn. And more than half said violence had worsened during the last three years."

The Inquirer devoted five reporters, one year of reporting, and a host of resources to the story, which opened beautifully, albeit hauntingly...

"For Teshada Herring, the action was unmistakable: The girls smearing Vaseline on their faces and fitting scarves to their heads were preparing for a fight.

The ritual - well-known in Philadelphia schools - is intended to keep skin from scarring and hair from getting ripped out.

As Teshada passed the group on her way to class at Audenried High that morning, the events of the previous week flashed through her mind - a fight she had witnessed, Facebook posts warning that someone from her neighborhood would be attacked, a text blast to her phone that all but named her as the intended victim.

She wondered: Would they come for her?"

I would highly encourage all to read and find out. 

Posted by Erica Green at 12:46 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

August 11, 2009

Debate on permanent expulsion begins

If last night’s work session on permanent expulsions is a preview of future discussions on the subject, then the road ahead is going to be a long one, fraught with debate.

Fortunately, as board Chair Neil E. Duke pointed out last night, it’s just the beginning of the process.  The board is expected to examine the issue for some time, with opportunities for the public to weigh in, before voting one way or another.

As has already been discussed here, there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue, and board members fall on either.  A couple (Maxine Wood and student member Jerome Hill) are still settling on their position.

Dr. Alonso and Jonathan Brice, the executive director for student support, reiterated last night their belief that a clear line must be drawn when it comes to acceptable school behavior.  The proposed policy on permanent expulsions, they contend, aims to do just that, highlighting certain offenses that warrant being shown the door.  Acts such as arson or detonating explosives put the entire school community in danger; at the same time, these cases represent a very small number of the incidents that occur in schools.

Continue reading "Debate on permanent expulsion begins" »

Posted by Arin Gencer at 3:44 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

August 10, 2009

City schools this week: permanent expulsions, Alonso address

Tonight, the Baltimore City school board is holding a work session on permanent expulsions.  You all may recall Sara's story back in May on this subject, as well as the debate here on Dr. Alonso's decision to permanently exclude students who intentionally set fires or detonate explosives from city schools.  I'll keep you posted on what happens during tonight's discussion.

I'll also be at Morgan State University tomorrow morning for Dr. Alonso's speech to school administrators about the state of schools and his goals for the 2009-2010 year.  The mayor is also expected to be there....check back here for an update.

Posted by Arin Gencer at 12:38 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

May 18, 2009

In Baltimore schools, a jump in permanent expulsions

My last Sun byline will be on a story about a drastic rise in permanent expulsions from Baltimore schools this year. I reported here back in October, following the explosions at Patterson High, that the system would start permanently expelling students found guilty of arson or detonating explosives. Consequently, 34 students -- including one in elementary school and 13 in middle school -- have been permanently expelled this school year, up from four last year at this time and just one the year before that. Two parents have secured legal representation from the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, which is considering a lawsuit.

We've talked a lot on this blog about Dr. Alonso's recommendation that students not be suspended for non-violent offenses. Indeed, the number of suspensions so far this school year is down by 3,500, from 13,289 incidents to 9,722. But on the flip side, Alonso wants zero tolerance for violence, and he makes a strong statement with his direction on permanent expulsions. 

Should a kid who sets a trash can fire be prohibited from ever returning to a Baltimore public school?

Continue reading "In Baltimore schools, a jump in permanent expulsions" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 3:56 PM | | Comments (37)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

Bullying policies in Baltimore County and elsewhere

My story today takes a look at a bullying policy coming before the Baltimore County school board Tuesday.

But really, this could have been about any school board in Maryland, considering the state law that requires every district to develop and adopt such a policy.  School officials in the city, Howard, Harford, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties are in the midst of this process, which must be completed by July 1 (and submitted to the state superintendent).

In talking to some of my sources, I was struck by the fact that most everyone already has a policy like this - even if it's not in the exact words or format recommended by the state.  In fact, the state Department of Education worked with local districts in creating its model policy. 

A uniform stance on an issue can certainly be a good thing - particularly when it comes to the persistent, even timeless, problem of bullying.  But I did wonder what people on the ground think about this.  Will it make a difference in how educators handle harassment or intimidation among their students?

May 11, 2009

Electrical problem, but no fire, at Sparrows Point High School

A kind reader alerted me to an incident at Sparrows Point High School today, and I wanted to provide some additional information, for those who might be wondering what happened out there.

The Baltimore County Fire Department tells me the school was evacuated this afternoon, as a precautionary measure, because of an electrical problem with an air-conditioning unit on the roof.  There was no actual fire. 

Activities were canceled for this evening, as BGE workers are there fixing their equipment.

A BGE spokeswoman said the workers should be finished by 5 p.m.

Posted by Arin Gencer at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

When should ex-cons be allowed around students?

Peter Hermann has this blog item about our coverage Saturday of Black Guerrilla Family lieutenant Rainbow Lee Williams doing gang de-escalation work at Harbor City and four educators endorsing the Black Book. Peter mentions a case he covered at Northern High School in the late 1990s where a former criminal was working as a school counselor, under the theory that because of his troubled past, kids would be able to relate to him. Then a new regime came in and got rid of the counselor, also because of his troubled past.

I do understand the theory that ex-cons can relate to a vulnerable population of kids, perhaps better than most anyone else. But how do you determine which ones are safe to be in our schools? Though Williams supposedly wasn't left alone with students, his case is troubling on two counts: 1) He just had gotten out of prison on a murder charge a few weeks before his work at Harbor City began -- so he hadn't had any time to prove he had turned himself around, which, as it turns out, he hadn't. 2) (Did I mention?) He'd just gotten out of prison on a murder charge. Shouldn't the standard be different for murder than lesser crimes? Why is it that sex offenders can never go back into schools, but there can be an exception after you've killed someone? (I'm not endorsing sex offenders in schools, either.)

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 12:19 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

May 6, 2009

Murder convict as a mentor?

City Paper is reporting that Rainbow Lee Williams, a murder convict and co-defendant in the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang conspiracy case, was mentoring students at one of Baltimore's alternative schools: Achievement Academy at Harbor City. He apparently worked for the nonprofit Partners In Progress, run by Bridget Alston-Smith. City Paper says that Alston-Smith wrote a back-cover blurb for "The Black Book," a self-improvement guide for people in the BGF gang.

I've asked the city school system for the status of Partners In Progress' contracts and procedures for criminal background checks on employees of contractors.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 4:59 PM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 29, 2009

Cases of swine flu in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties

A letter from Milford Mill Academy Principal Nathaniel Gibson has been posted on the southwest Baltimore County school’s Web site, with some details about the one student who appears to have swine flu.

The Anne Arundel student attends Folger McKinsey Elementary School in Severna Park.

Check out the story so far.

April 27, 2009

Monday evening musings

I wonder what the children at Samuel F.B. Morse Elementary saw on their way into school this morning; a dead body was found across the street at 7 a.m... Teach Baltimore (formerly Epiphany In Baltimore) blogs about the ambivalence of students on his baseball team when they discover that a guy is hiding heroin under the grass in the playground where they practice... Now, in addition to street violence and the drug trade, we have to worry about cyberbullying. The Anti-Defamation League, in partnership with Frederick County schools and the Maryland State Department of Education, is holding the Mid-Atlantic's first cyberbullying conference in Frederick tomorrow. Closer to home, the International Institute for Restorative Practices will hold a daylong training in Baltimore on the technique it says reduces school violence. Isn't it a shame you have to be in school? Also tomorrow, NAEP scores for the nation (not broken down by state) will be released. Tomorrow night, the Baltimore school board casts its much-awaited votes on school closures and reorganizations. And that's not all that's on the agenda. The board will hear reports on the state of charter schools and summer school and get a recommendation to change its high school promotion policy, dropping the requirement of certain courses in particular grades. More to come on all these topics... Looking ahead: I'll spend Thursday to Saturday this week at the Education Writers Association conference in Washington. Saturday evening, Frederick Douglass students and alums will put on a concert to honor the late Anne Brown.

April 22, 2009

Masonville Cove police officer indicted on sex charges

My colleague Justin Fenton reports that a Baltimore school police officer was arrested today. A grand jury indicted Reginald Watson, 35, on charges that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl. Watson is charged with sexual abuse of a minor, fourth-degree sex assault and second-degree assault for an alleged Feb. 19 incident at Masonville Cove Community Academy (formerly Benjamin Franklin Junior High, now a high school). The victim is a student there.

According to police, the girl was walking the school hallways when Watson bought her snacks (specifically, Pop Tarts) and took her into an office. There, he played the movie "Lean On Me" before allegedly making sexually explicit remarks to her and placing his hands on her hips and buttocks. Police learned of the incident after the girl relayed the account to a parent volunteer. 

Watson was indicted yesterday and arrested today. He's being held on $50,000 bond and has a bail review scheduled for Thursday morning in Baltimore Circuit Court. Justin, who covers city police, says the "sexual abuse of a minor" charge is usually reserved for parents or guardians accused of abusing their children, but Watson is being hit with it because of his role as a police officer and authority figure.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 20, 2009

Ten years after Columbine

Do you remember where you were 10 years ago today? The Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, was a moment in history I'll never forget.

I was a college student at the time, spending the semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain. My host mother, an elderly woman, burst into my room and started yelling in Spanish about how crazy Americans are, killing each other in their schools. She struggled with the word "Colorado," thinking it might have been my home state, Connecticut. I scurried out to an Internet cafe to get the details of what happened.

Continue reading "Ten years after Columbine" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:09 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 16, 2009

Northwestern's head of special ed arrested on drug charges

I'm bleary-eyed but back in Baltimore, ready for tonight's school closure hearing at Poly/Western. Sounds like I missed more drama yesterday, when the head of special education at Northwestern High was arrested on drug charges at North Avenue. Victoria Carter, 58, was being held on $40,000 bail at Central Booking following a long undercover drug investigation and the arrest of her 29-year-old son, Kenneth Carter. Police say they seized 50 grams of suspected crack from their home and a small amount from the mother's BMW.
Posted by Sara Neufeld at 4:05 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 14, 2009

Juvenile shot in ankle during Harlem Park burglary

Looks like I'm missing a busy return from spring break... A juvenile was shot in the ankle during a burglary at the Harlem Park complex shortly after midnight when a school police officer's gun discharged. The officer, a 36-year veteran, is on administrative leave. My colleague, Peter Hermann, points out on his blog that so far the officer's name is being withheld. Here is a story and photo and the city school system's statement is below.

Continue reading "Juvenile shot in ankle during Harlem Park burglary" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

March 23, 2009

Another side of Northwestern High

I talked to Jason Hartling, principal of Northwestern High School. He says there were between 12 and 14 girls involved in Friday's cafeteria fight. School police maintain that it was at least 30. Hartling said the situation was contained and students were back in classes learning within 15 minutes.

In any event: As some of the teachers mentioned in comments, there is reason to celebrate over the school's success with Bridge projects. When Liz wrote about Northwestern in October, 165 seniors had not met graduation requirements either by passing the HSAs or earning a minimum combined score. Since then, Northwestern seniors have submitted 561 projects -- more than any other school in the city and more than all the schools combined in some other districts.

With about a 90 percent pass rate on the projects, more than 200 of Northwestern's 278 seniors now meet the requirements for graduation, and Hartling said another 50 are close -- with another project or two to finish up. He estimates that only a handful of seniors won't graduate because of the HSA requirements, and they're the ones who have not done what they're supposed to do. Seniors are giving testimonials to underclassmen about the importance of taking the HSAs seriously so they won't have to do the projects next year.

Getting to this point has been a ton of work, by staff and students. "We’re here on Saturday; we’re here after school," Hartling said. "I would put my staff up against any staff in the state. They just work incredibly hard."

And while we're on the subject of Northwestern: I've mentioned here before how impressed I am with its student newspaper, The Compass. And now, The Compass is online. In the current issue, students take their administration to task in an editorial for not having more Black History Month activities. Stories include a first-person account of attending President Obama's inauguration and a piece questioning whether it's right to lock student bathrooms during the day.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:18 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof), Testing
        

February 25, 2009

Transcendental meditation and student behavior

We've talked a lot on this blog about student disciplinary problems, but not as much about how to prevent them... Last weekend in Timonium, the results of a national study were released suggesting that transcendental meditation can reduce the behavioral outbursts associated with ADHD. Researchers followed a group of middle school students with ADHD who were meditating twice a day in school. After three months, they found more than a 50-percent reduction in stress and anxiety and improvements in ADHD symptoms. The lead researcher, a cognitive learning specialist from George Washington University, said the effect was "much greater than we expected."

The study is published this month in the journal Current Issues in Education. And here's a video of kids talking about their experience meditating.

February 17, 2009

Specifics on the MATHS suspensions

The city school system has provided me with more detailed information on the suspension rate at Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences (MATHS), the charter high school whose contract is up for renewal. Its 83 percent suspension rate last year prompted the school board to table its vote on the contract renewal last week.

In 2006-07, the school's first year of existence, its enrollment was 108. It suspended 12 students 24 times.

In 2007-08, the school enrolled 208 students. Eighty-two of them were suspended 173 times. Of the 173 suspensions, one was short-term, 164 were long-term and eight led to expulsions. Ninety-eight suspensions were for "disrespect/insubordination" and three were for attendance problems -- in other words, the nonviolent offenses for which Dr. Alonso has urged schools to find alternative, in-school punishments since his arrival a year and a half ago.

This school year, MATHS' enrollment is up to 352. So far, 62 students have been suspended 99 times. The suspension rate is lower because the enrollment is higher, but the number of incidents is on pace to meet or exceed last year. Again, the vast majority of suspensions are long-term. The number of suspensions for nonviolent offenses is down significantly, but the number of violent incidents is up. The school reports 42 suspensions for attacks, threats or fights so far this year, compared with 45 for all of last year. And it's reported five sex offenses so far this year, compared with two last year.

See below for a breakdown of suspensions by type of offense for last year and the current year so far.

Continue reading "Specifics on the MATHS suspensions" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:05 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

February 12, 2009

Baltimore schools have 2nd stabbing in 2 days

A boy from Baltimore Talent Development High was stabbed in the left shoulder outside the school this morning. He was alert and talking as he was taken to the hospital. Two boys from Augusta Fells Savage, located in the same Harlem Park complex as Talent Development, are in custody.

This comes after yesterday's stabbing at Carver. The student there who was stabbed in the side after classes let out yesterday was in good condition at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:27 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

February 3, 2009

In Reginald Lewis teacher beating case, girl not guilty of 2 of 3 charges

I just heard from my colleague Justin Fenton at the juvenile courthouse. The girl charged in the Jolita Berry beating was cleared on the two most serious charges against her: criminal assault and school violence.

She was found guilty on the third, lesser charge of disrupting school activites.

Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Smith said that he found both sides credible -- and that both sides acted deplorably. He could not determine who was at fault for starting the brawl.

UPDATE, 5:30 p.m. Here's a statement from Marietta English, head of the Baltimore Teachers Union: "This is terrible. It’s unfortunate that the judge saw it this way. It sends the wrong message to our students, now they will feel they can get away with just about anything in the classroom.”

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 4:39 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

December 23, 2008

Inappropriate relationships in Howard schools

Over in Howard County, a 61-year-old high school band director was arrested today and charged with sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl over two years. For all the problems in city schools, these teacher/student relationship scandals seem to surface far more often in the suburbs. Three teachers in Howard were arrested in the 2006-2007 school year for inappropriate relationships with students. I don't remember the last time a case like that was brought to light in Baltimore. I'm not saying there haven't been any, but if there have in recent years, they've been kept quiet.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 3:49 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Howard County, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

Timothy Oxendine pleads not guilty

The 14-year-old former Lemmel student pleaded not guilty today in the fatal stabbing of classmate Markel Williams, 15.

Timothy's lawyer does not appear to be claiming that his client did not commit the crime. Instead, he's making the case that there were extenuating circumstances and Timothy was afraid of Markel and afraid to come to school. He said he's trying to get the case moved to juvenile court, where the punishment would likely be much less severe.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 3:28 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

December 16, 2008

To teach the kids, first control the parents

We've talked about this issue before, but whenever a parent instigates violence at a school, it seems worth a mention. In the latest incident, yesterday at Maritime Industries Academy, I'm told that a school police officer tried to search a boy for weapons. He and his mother then attacked the officer, and a second boy walking by got involved.

A few weeks ago, we had a mother walk into a classroom at Matthew Henson Elementary and attack a teacher. What I suggest in the headline, that schools need to control parents, is impossible, of course. But the parents do need to exercise self-control. I guess these incidents are just further proof that if schools are to get better, the whole community needs to be involved.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:43 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

December 10, 2008

Settling the halls of Garrison Middle School

In today's paper, my colleague Julie Bykowicz features a new program at Garrison Middle School that's hired four men to serve as hall monitors, mentors and father figures to a vulnerable student population. The program, run by the non-profit advocacy group BUILD, was tested last spring at Garrison and -- ironically -- Lemmel, but only Garrison's principal chose to budget the money to keep it going.

As I read Julie's story, I couldn't help but think about the fatal stabbing of Markel Williams. Had Lemmel decided to keep the program, would someone have been in the hall to stop Markel as he made the deadly decision to run outside during the school day? We'll never know the answer. But we do know that at Garrison, it seems to be helping to have men whose backgrounds are similar to the students' available to set a positive example.

BUILD will hold a rally tonight at St. Matthew's Catholic Church to protest any upcoming funding cuts to education and youth programs.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving can't come soon enough

Yesterday was another violent day in city schools. At Forest Park High, five students were arrested and charged with attacking two teachers. One of the teachers had reported to police that he was robbed  (unarmed) on Monday by two other students, who were subsequently arrested, and the attack was retaliation. Another teacher came to his colleague's aid during the attack, and he bore the brunt of the assault. The school was on lockdown for hours.

At Maritime Industries Academy, fivel girls were involved in a fight. And at Patterson High, everyone had to stand outside for more than an hour after someone set a fire in a bathroom that sent smoke through a wing of the building.

What's going on here?

Continue reading "Thanksgiving can't come soon enough" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:02 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 23, 2008

Bad day gets worse

Friday was an even more violent day in the city schools than I'd realized. In addition to the fatal stabbing at Lemmel, a mother was arrested and charged with attacking a teacher at Matthew Henson Elementary. The Sun reports today on that incident, as well as the charges filed against 14-year-old Timothy Oxendine in the murder of Markel Williams, 15.

UPDATE: Thanks to Carey Hall for correcting us on the last time a student was killed on school grounds during the school day. There was a fatal shooting outside Lake Clifton in January 2001.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 12:40 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 22, 2008

Blood shed on school grounds

According to a search of our newspaper archives, the last time a student was killed on Baltimore school grounds during the school day was January 1986 2001, when a boy was shot in the hall at outside of Lake Clifton High. As a society, we are mortified when we hear a child was killed at school, which is what happened yesterday when a 15-year-old was fatally stabbed outside Lemmel Middle. In the media, we give the incident big play.

But look at the quote in our story today from Lauren Brunson, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Lemmel. "I don't feel unsafe, because it happens all the time," she told my colleague Justin Fenton. "There's not much you can do except watch your back."

Continue reading "Blood shed on school grounds" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:39 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 13, 2008

Violence hotline to start Monday

The school safety hotline discussed over the summer will start on Monday. This will be an anonymous hotline meant for students to report tips to school officials without their identities being revealed. It will be staffed around the clock by employees from the system's command center, with some non-instructional aides being transferred to help take calls. The number will be 410-396-SAFE.
Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

October 29, 2008

At Walbrook, weapons drawn

Just a few days after Peter Hermann's column about the safety concerns of students at Homeland Security Academy, the other school that shares the old Walbrook building had a frightening incident. It happened Tuesday at the Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship.

System officials confirm that late yesterday morning, a boy became very agitated, and neither staff nor the school police officers assigned to the building could calm him down. In the hallway, he wielded a knife, and they did not know if he would use it to harm himself or others. After officers commanded him between seven and 10 times to drop his weapon and he did not, one of them drew a gun. The student put the knife down and was transported to DJS.

This, on the same day as a boy was stabbed in the chest at Heritage High. Not a great backdrop for celebrating the city's improved high school performance. 

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:44 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

October 16, 2008

Kicking students out for good

Yesterday, Dr. Alonso sent a letter to the school system about Tuesday's explosions at Patterson High. In it, he wrote that he would recommend to the board of education, subject to due process, "the EXCLUSION of any student who is judged guilty of intentionally setting a fire or detonating an explosive....  That means that I will recommend that any student who engages in such criminal behavior will be permanently excluded from ALL of our schools."

This paragraph stopped me because, in my eight years covering education, I've always been familiar with the term expulsion, not exclusion. Expulsion means different things in different places, but in Baltimore, expelled students have the opportunity to attend an alternative school. Success Academy, the new school in North Avenue, is designed specifically for those on long-term suspension and expulsion. I hadn't realized that the system could kick a student out for good.

But evidently it can. Last academic year, 13 students -- all between the ages of 16 and 18 -- were expelled from city schools and not reinstated, according to system spokeswoman Edie House. To be eligible for exclusion, House said, a student must have endangered the safety of others and generally have a history of disciplinary problems. Those who are excluded are provided with information about GED and job training programs. And special education students are never excluded.

Many of you have probably seen Alonso's letter already, but I'm pasting it below for those who haven't.

Continue reading "Kicking students out for good" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:20 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

October 15, 2008

Two takes on the Patterson evacuation

I received an e-mail today from a teacher at Patterson High School about the hectic evacuation of the school yesterday amid the explosions of two chemical-filled bottles. I'm posting it here, along with a reaction from the principal.

Continue reading "Two takes on the Patterson evacuation" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 4:59 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

September 26, 2008

"Alive and Free" conference, coming to Baltimore

In a few weeks, the Street Soldiers violence prevention program will hold its international conference at Baltimore's Lake Clifton high school complex, with participants expected to come from as far away as South Africa.

I've written a few stories in the past couple of years about Street Soldiers as it's being implemented at the Lake Clifton schools: Doris M. Johnson and Heritage. The program was started by a San Francisco teacher and a counselor tired of seeing their middle school students end up behind bars or, worse, in caskets. It views violence as a disease that can be overcome by replacing "rules of the street" (example: thou shalt not snitch) with "rules of living." Its mission is to keep youth "alive and free" -- meaning unharmed by violence and not incarcerated. Those infected with the violence disease are viewed as having bodies filled with toxins they need to "throw up," or talk. Street Soldiers provides a safe environment for young people to do that.

At Lake Clifton, the program is run by a dynamic woman named Nzinga Oneferua-El, who over the years has lost both a fiance and a best friend to Baltimore's street violence. Through classes during the school day and an after-school program, she blends the Street Soldiers model with entrepreneurial job training to give students viable money-making skills as an alternative to the drug trade. It was a major coup for her to get the annual Street Soldiers conference held in Baltimore, and she and her students have been planning for months. They've secured speakers including the entertainer Sinbad and the actress Terri Vaughn, but I'll bet that the most powerful testimonials will come from the students themselves. Training will be offered in the roots of violence, risk factors for violent behavior, the rules of the street and the rules for living. 

Registration for the conference, to be held Friday, Oct. 17 and Saturday, Oct. 18, is open now. Students are admitted free, and city teachers are eligible for a discount on admission, which is $150 for both days (including breakfast and lunch). More information on the conference is available here. More information on Street Soldiers is here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

September 9, 2008

Would a violence hotline make schools safer?

Over the summer, I attended a meeting of the school system's steering committee on safety. Mayor Dixon and Council President Rawlings-Blake dropped in for part of the session, and while they were there, committee members questioned a boy representing the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City about why students are reluctant to give information to school police. Not surprisingly, he said they're afraid of retaliation. Rawlings-Blake asked if it would be useful to have an anonymous hotline where students, teachers and parents could give the school police tips on gang and other violent activity. He said yes.

And so, as my colleague Annie Linskey reports today, the council president has introduced a resolution to create such a hotline. Any thoughts on whether people would use it?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:52 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

July 3, 2008

For W.E.B. DuBois, it paid to be persistently dangerous

As I report in today's paper, W.E.B. DuBois High in Baltimore has been awarded a $3.7 federal grant to improve mentoring and student work opportunities. It is one of nine "persistently dangerous" high schools nationwide to receive a multi-million-dollar grant from the federal labor department.

No Child Left Behind leaves it to the states to define what it means to be a "persistently dangerous" school.   In Maryland in general and Baltimore in particular (where all of Maryland's persistently dangerous schools are located), people complain a lot that the state makes it easier than most for a school to earn the dubious label. There are several downsides to that: Schools have an incentive not to suspend students for violent offenses (here, it's the suspension numbers that count against you). If violent schools do report their numbers accurately, they are rewarded with public humiliation.

In this case, though, it paid to be persistently dangerous. While many schools could use a grant for mentoring and internships, only persistently dangerous schools were eligible to apply.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:07 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City, NCLB, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

June 12, 2008

Things are heating up in Towson

Parents in the Towson area are hot under the collar after Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. decided yesterday that $12 million that had been budgeted for the expansion of Loch Raven High School will instead go toward other projects after the county school board unanimously voted to rescind its approval of the proposed addition (as reported in my story today).

Some have questioned why the money wouldn't instead be put toward adding air condition to the many schools that lack it. On Monday, Baltimore County closed all its schools three hours early because of the heat. While other counties closed a school here or there, Baltimore County closed all its schools because so many --- about half of them --- lack air conditioning that it made little sense to keep any of them open.

One community activist, Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, whose son attends Ridgely Middle School (which recently completed a $13 million renovation, but still lacks air conditioning), drove home this point in a WBAL radio interview this week:

"They need just $900,000 to add air conditioning," she said. "They now have windows that don't open at all or that open only six inches. The temperatures are 10 degrees hotter than it is outside."

On Smith's role, she added that his decision to put the $12 million into other projects without seeing whether the school board might support adding air conditioning to some of these school, "creates resentment."

"There's a feeling he is not thinking about the people in these schools, about the students and the teachers that are suffering much more with the lack of air conditioning, which is a health issue as well as an education issue, rather than repaving parking lots, loading dock replacements and footbridge replacements," Taylor-Mitchell said on the WBAL radio show.

In an interview yesterday, Smith said he is directing the $12 million toward these "site improvement" projects because the school board wants them done. He said the projects, part of a list that totals $20 million, were requested early in the budget process and only $2 million was able to be allocated for them. Scrapping the Loch Raven addition frees up that money, he said.

I have a call into the school system officials to find out if it would have been an option for the school board --- had they been consulted yesterday before Smith's decision --- to suggest using that freed up $12 million toward air conditioning projects in the coming year. Are there logistical or technical constraints? Is it as simple as, If only he had first asked the board what they wanted to do with the "found" money?

I'll update this post later with whatever response the school system is able to offer.

UPDATE:

5:56 pm. Thursday --- I just finished talking to Kara Calder, spokeswoman for the school system. She confirmed that, to her knowledge, the county executive did not contact school system officials before announcing his decision yesterday.

As for whether the money could've instead been targeted at adding air condition to schools, Calder explained that before any changes (such as adding projects not previously equested) could be made to the school system's capital improvements program list of projects for the fiscal year that starts July 1, all parties --- meaning the school board, county executive and county council --- would have to agree.

About the projects that Smith has recommended, Calder said, "The site improvements are much-needed projects. Some have been carried over for two or three years. There are definitely some significant needs there."

Posted by Gina Davis at 12:48 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore County, School Finance, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

June 10, 2008

A uniform code of conduct

Much of the debate on suspensions in Baltimore this year stemmed from the fact that different schools -- and different people within the same school -- doled out different consequences for the same offenses. Cutting class could lead to a phone call home at School A and a suspension at School B. Then Dr. Alonso said he didn't want schools suspending students for non-violent offenses, raising several questions: What is grounds for suspension? What other responses are appropriate and when?

Now we have some answers. The school system has released a proposed code of conduct outlining four categories of offenses, which offenses fall into each category and what punishments are appropriate at each level. Appropriate responses to a Level 1 offense (examples include an unexcused absense and minor bullying) include parent notification, a seat change or an in-class time out. Level 2 (say, cheating or habitual truancy) could mean in-school suspension. Short-term suspension out of school doesn't come into play until Level 3 (attack on student with bodily injury, drug possession), while Level 4 (attack on student with serious bodily injury, bomb threat) could involve long-term suspension or expulsion. There's also a list of offenses where it's mandatory for school police to be contacted.

Despite the code's specificity, many offenses could fall into multiple categories. Classroom disruption could be a 1, 2 or 3, but at its most extreme, Level 3, the proposal says that out-of-school suspension can be only for one day.

The 19-page proposal is posed on the system's Web site. There's also an e-mail address for the public to provide feedback: safeschools@bcps.k12.md.us. The code will need to be approved by the school board.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:02 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

May 30, 2008

Week of the school safety forum

Want to talk about school safety? You'll have plenty of opportunities next week.

Nancy Grasmick and Elijah Cummings are co-hosting a daylong school safety summit at UMBC on Tuesday, an event planned in response to the Jolita Berry incident. Then on Tuesday night, the city school system hosts the first of three "Safe and Supportive Schools Family and Community Conversations." (Times and locations are below.)

Will any good come out of these forums? There surely have been a lot of them over the years, and the same problems remain. And yet, there's clearly still a strong appetite for more.

Continue reading "Week of the school safety forum" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:59 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

May 14, 2008

To school, not just another homicide

All the news reporters at The Sun are required to participate in a weekend work rotation, and last Friday, it was my turn to work the night police shift. Around 10 p.m., I heard from a city police department spokesman that a black juvenile male had been shot in the head. It didn't sound good, but we didn't know for sure if he was alive or dead. As midnight approached and with it the deadline for the paper's final edition, I was able to get enough details from the spokesman (some of them wrong, it later turned out) to squeak out a couple of sentences: A 17-year-old Baltimore resident was killed shortly after 9:30 p.m. at 28th Street and Hillen Road. As I left work early Saturday morning, I wondered about this boy: where he'd gone to school, what his life was like. I wondered, as I often do while writing homicide briefs on weekend shifts, how we would have treated his death if he were white and lived in Howard County.

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, I learned a bit more about him, about David Henderson, who was 18 and shot in the chest (or so the police later said). He was a student at Doris M. Johnson High School, where -- coincidentally -- I spoke to a few freshman English classes earlier this spring about how to write a newspaper profile. The students were writing profiles of the presidential candidates. To give them practice gathering information, I let them interview me about myself and my job. Their teachers were embarrassed when they asked how much money I make, how old I am and whether I'm married, but I told them that reporters have to ask uncomfortable questions and I answered everything they asked. They were a fun group.

The seniors at Doris Johnson were dancing at their prom Friday night when they learned their classmate had been murdered. And if that wasn't enough, four kids leaving the prom were in a car accident when their vehicle was struck by a drunken driver. One was injured seriously.

Speaking at the board meeting, a social worker from the school said David was a "really wonderful kid" who fell victim to senseless street violence. She said it would mean something to his mother that the school board had acknowledged his passing.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

May 8, 2008

Troubling developments at Calverton and Canton

Disturbing reports from the two schools that have been in the news the past week: 

1) Calverton Elementary/Middle held a staff meeting after school yesterday. I'm told by multiple sources that it was the first time teachers were officially informed of what happened there on Sunday. I'm also told that the response by the school's administration was to blame the media for overblowing the situation. Meanwhile, teachers reported hearing a gunshot outside the building again yesterday morning, though police questioned whether the noise was something else, like a car backfiring or construction. Either way, staff, students and parents are scared, particularly the parents of the school's youngest children, whose classrooms are on the ground floor of the building and must be vacated when the school goes into lockdown mode.

2) Canton Middle had a regularly scheduled fire drill on Tuesday. Kim Kramer-Zamenski, the mother of two children at the school, says neighbors called the students standing outside "monkeys" and other inappropriate names, yelled at them to go back inside and moved their cars to get away from them. The mother wrote in an e-mail to me that, while she understands that a group of Canton students have caused problems for neighbors, "these are grown adults (and) they are asking for a problem when they act this way.  I think they are trying to get the kids to do something bad so they have something to complain about." 

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:01 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 29, 2008

Hot off the presses: "Attacking Our Educators"

Great timing after the highly publicized attack on Baltimore art teacher Jolita Berry: A new book about assaults on educators. The press release in my inbox says it's "a perfect end of the school year gift for any teacher." Because any teacher would want to spend the summer vacation reading about getting beaten up...

According to "Attacking Our Educators," teacher assaults is not a problem that's unique to Baltimore or even the United States. The release says it's an "epidemic" happening all over the world. In American schools, around 1.3 million teachers were victims of nonfatal crimes at schools between 1997 and 2001, the book estimates. In Ontario, 40 percent of teachers report "being bullied by students." In the United Kingdom, a third of teachers "have faced physical aggression from students." And the UK's National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women’s Teachers found that a teacher is attacked every nine minutes.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:03 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 24, 2008

Another assault at the Lewis/DuBois complex

This time, the victim is ... a photographer from the Baltimore Examiner. The photographer was outside on the W.E.B. DuBois side of the building that also houses Reginald Lewis, scene of the infamous Jolita Berry beating. She was allegedly pushed to the ground by a student who didn't want his picture taken.

I wish I were joking. The Examiner story is here.

Meanwhile, Marc Steiner is back to work. He interviewed Dr. Alonso on school violence yesterday. You can listen to their conversation here.

 

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 21, 2008

What would you say if the principal wasn't listening?

Mayor Dixon and Dr. Alonso are hosting a forum this afternoon for city teachers to voice their concerns about school safety and suggest solutions -- no administrators allowed. Fliers for the session stress that it will be confidential, an apparent recognition of the culture of fear of retaliation that pervades the city school system. The forum comes after two weeks of repeated incidents of violence in and around Baltimore's schools.

UPDATE, 8:30 p.m.: By my count, about 300 teachers attended. I spoke to Dr. Alonso after the forum (which went until 7:30, an hour and a half past the time advertised), and he said he wants to start meeting with teachers on a monthly basis, like he does with principals. The purpose will be to get feedback on the system in general, not only on the issue of school violence. So to those of you who didn't know about this meeting or weren't able to attend, maybe there will be other opportunities.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:33 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 17, 2008

What if the teacher strikes first?

The city school system is refusing to release the incident report on the altercation at Mervo last week that left both a student and a teacher hospitalized. Why? Other students in the class are alleging that the teacher started the fight.

This is a tricky situation. In a case where students and a teacher are the only witnesses, it could be easy for the students to band together and make up a story to protect one of their own. And in reporting on teacher assaults the past week, I've talked to more than one teacher frustrated that attacks on staff go unreported for lack of evidence. I also knew a teacher who once spent months out of his job waiting for the school system to conclude that, no, he did not assault a student as the child alleged.

But what if the teacher at Mervo really did strike first? What if it's the teacher's word against the students'? How do you know which side is telling the truth?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:03 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 16, 2008

Connecting the dots on school/city violence

Both yesterday and today, there have been lockdowns at Calverton Elementary/Middle School after shootings in the neighborhood. Yesterday, Alexander Hamilton Elementary was locked down as well, after a city police officer was shot just outside its walls. Nearby Empowerment Academy had already dismissed at the time, but today there was a lockdown there, too, after a 15-year-old boy outside was shot in the face. The shooting victim, who is expected to survive, is a student at Frederick Douglass High, where another student was arrested and charged with attempted murder this week in connection with a stabbing in a school bathroom.

A second thread: Our story Sunday reported that Booker T. Washington Middle has expelled students for teacher assaults eight times this academic year, more than any other school in the city. The 14-year-old girl who was fatally shot this week, allegedly by her 18-year-old boyfriend (who told police it was a mistake), was in seventh-grade at Booker T. Washington.

Under circumstances like these, how are students supposed to learn? And is it any wonder that violence is spilling over into school walls?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:30 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 15, 2008

Calling for 500 volunteers

Some people may be skeptical that the city school system will find 500 volunteers in the next two weeks. (I report on the campaign in today's paper.) But whether the initiative is successful may depend less on the number of people who step up to the plate than on how they're received at a school. System officials say the schools where they'll be deploying volunteers en masse will all have to ask for the assistance, and they'll have to give the volunteers something specific to do.

Historically, though, it's clear that some schools have struggled with parent involvement because they haven't made parents feel welcome. Letting parents into a school means more eyes on the adults running the place, as well as on the children.

If you haven't read Dr. Alonso's email to the community yet, I've pasted the text below.

Continue reading "Calling for 500 volunteers" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:25 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Baltimore City, Parents, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 11, 2008

Are schools doctoring discipline statistics?

The recent assault of a teacher by a student at Reginald F. Lewis High has highlighted a number of serious concerns facing schools right now. I have been most disturbed by the claims that administrators are not reporting certain disciplinary incidents to alter school statistics.

I must stress that the student in this recent case was suspended from school immediately following the incident. I am focusing more on the teachers union's claims that incidents like this are frequent and often unreported.

Marietta English, co-president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said her office has been receiving two or three complaints a day of assaults on teachers, many of which are not reported to the school system or police, according to Sara Neufeld’s story.

The union has long claimed that administrators aren't reporting violent incidents or doing enough to punish children who are violent, for fear their schools will be labeled "persistently dangerous" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Sara’s story says.

A persistently dangerous school is defined in Maryland by the number of suspensions for violent offenses, not the number of offenses itself.

This isn’t just a problem in Baltimore.

My mother – a retired principal in Syracuse, New York – last night said she discussed this matter with some of her former peers, and it is common knowledge that some schools to not report certain disciplinary actions. (For the record, my mother detests this practice.)

Dr. Alonso has threatened to fire anyone in Baltimore city schools who does not report these incidents, Sara told me when I talked to her a few minutes ago.

The system says it has expelled students for assaults on staff members 112 times this school year, compared with 98 at this time last year.

School officials point to the slight increase in expulsions as a result of Dr. Alonso's policy, Sara told me.

Are schools are doctoring their discipline numbers to avoid: a negative community reaction, or an “unsafe schools” label?

April 10, 2008

When students assault teachers

My e-mail box was flooded this morning with messages from people outraged by my story today about a teacher assault at Reginald F. Lewis High that was captured on video on a student's cell phone. People are stunned by the statistic: the school system has expelled students 112 times so far this academic year for assault on staff, compared with 98 times at this time last year. And the teachers union is charging that more assaults were not reported.

In reporting a story like this, my fear is that the public will view all city students as "running wild" (as Dr. Alonso said at the board meeting last month, when he asked the union to talk in specifics rather than generalizations). My perception is that at many schools, a few disruptive kids can make the numbers look bad for everyone. It's also important to keep in mind that if a teacher or other staff member tries to break up a fight and a student hits that adult accidentally, that's grounds for expulsion, and those incidents are included in the 112 figure.

At the same time, I hear from a lot of folks who believe that our schools are sending kids the message that inappropriate behavior won't be punished. Now there's a school system-teachers union task force to address the issue of teacher assaults in particular and school violence in general. Members will try to come up with strategies to improve the situation.

Any ideas?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:48 AM | | Comments (49)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

April 1, 2008

Boy, 7, brings loaded guns to Randallstown Elementary School

A 7-year-old boy at Randallstown Elementary School was caught yesterday with two loaded handguns in a classroom, Baltimore County police said this morning.

The guns, which were fully loaded, were discovered after a 9mm Kahr handgun fell from the child's pocket about 10:30 a.m. The gun that fell had one round in the chamber.

A search of the boy's backpack revealed a second weapon, a 40-caliber Glock handgun.

The boy was detained and then turned over to his parents, according to The Sun's article. It is unknown whether or not the boy will face any charges.

This isn’t the first time that an elementary student has brought in a loaded gun to school. In October 2006, an 8-year-old at Grove Park Elementary in Baltimore accidentally discharged a loaded revolver in a desk in his third-grade class. Another 8-year-old had brought the gun to school. Since then, the city schools have allowed principals to install metal detectors in schools where the community wants them. 

I’m beyond shocked this most recent incident occurred. I can only assume that the boy got the weapons from home. If that is the case, what punishment/responsibility do the parents face?

In addition, what do you do with the kid? I certainly would be extremely apprehensive to allow the kid back into my classroom. Do you put him in an alternative education class? Do you simply sweep this situation under the rug? And, what about metal detectors? Are they the answer?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 10:08 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore County, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

March 19, 2008

Can students be scared straight?

My colleague Nick Madigan attended a meeting this week where Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy talked to students from Robert Poole Middle School about the criminal justice system. Five of the students' classmates are on trial in connection with a December incident where two passengers on a city bus were brutally attacked while the kids were riding home from school.

The session was trying to get the students "scared straight," giving them a tour of former juvenile holding cells. Yet only a few of them raised their hands when Jessamy asked who would commit to avoiding a life of crime. One of the boys readily confessed that he'd been locked up before.

In response to his story, Nick got a number of e-mails from readers suggesting that all city students be given the opportunity to witness what the kids at Robert Poole did. And Jessamy said she conducts such sessions regularly. But clearly, the students from Poole are already incredibly jaded by middle school. Is it too late to scare them off from engaging in crime? To those of you who work in the city, do you think a "scared straight" program would be effective with your students?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:03 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

March 13, 2008

Who raises the red flag on absentees?

In today's paper, I write about 15-year-old Tyisha M. Brown, a Woodlawn High School student who was found shot to death in a high-crime area of the city. Tyisha was never reported missing by family members and it took three weeks for police to learn her identity.

The circumstances surrounding Tyisha's death raise questions about the obligation of school officials to raise a red flag when students abruptly stop showing up. According to a school official, she was neither chronically absent nor a disciplinary problem. But her long absence did not prompt the school to look into her whereabouts because school officials wait about three weeks before investigating. "Unfortunately, schools deal with kids who get up and move and don't tell us," the school officials explained.

Should school officials move quicker when a student abruptly stops showing up for classes and remains absent for a long time?

February 27, 2008

Should all school buses be equipped with seatbelts?

I’m sure, by now, you’ve already heard the story about the Prince George’s County school bus that flipped on its side Wednesday morning when the driver made a fast turn. The driver and five children were injured as a result.

All 44 students onboard were taken to area hospitals for precautionary evaluations.

While I’m glad there were no fatalities, I am concerned with the recklessness of the driver. (He’s been charged with taking the turn at a "speed greater than reasonable," police said.)

I’m also wondering whether there were seatbelts on the bus. (Both articles did not reveal this.) A little-known reality is that some school buses are not equipped with seatbelts.

Should all school buses be equipped with seatbelts? And, should students then be required to wear seatbelts? 

February 4, 2008

Is your school getting a metal detector?

Read on to find out ...

The Baltimore school system has released the list of 40 schools scheduled to have walk-through metal detectors installed this month. These are all schools where the principals requested metal detectors, supposedly after gathering community input. The list is subject to change if more principals decide they want metal detectors or if principals who have requested the devices change their minds.

Employees from the 40 schools are scheduled to undergo training in a few weeks, at which point installation will begin (starting, I'm told, with the Walbrook campus, which is top priority). In the weeks and months ahead, I'll be interested to hear from those of you in these schools about how the metal detectors work out.

And now for that list ...

Continue reading "Is your school getting a metal detector?" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:49 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

January 18, 2008

Suspensions in Maryland

I have been looking over the suspension data for Maryland schools recently and noted that there are a lot of suspensions for non-violent offenses. There seems to be a debate over how to deal with misbehavior. Should we be suspending students for talking back and disrespect as a way of getting troublesome students out of the classroom or should we try other approaches? What about suspensions of young children? I would be interested in talking to teachers and administrators about this issue. My e-mail is liz.bowie@baltsun.com.
Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

January 17, 2008

CDC study shows school murders down from 90s

According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 16 students are murdered at U.S. schools each year. Read more in this story.

The study shows that 116 deaths occurred from July 1999 through June 2006. From July 1994 to June 1999, which included the shooting spree at Columbine High School in April 1999, there were 172.

The CDC counted murders of students that occurred at elementary, middle or high schools; during school-sponsored trips; or while students were on their way to or from school.

Researchers don’t know what led to the drop, but they suspect that the decrease might have to do with violence prevention measures.

Are you surprised by these findings? What do you think has contributed to the drop?

January 16, 2008

No snitching for Baltimore school police?

This story in today's Sun by city courts reporter Melissa Harris left me concerned and perplexed about the officers hired to protect Baltimore's schoolchildren.

Last March, the article reports, at least five Baltimore school police officers were at a birthday party for a school police dispatcher at a club in West Baltimore. Gunfire erupted, and a man was murdered. The gunman pleaded guilty to the crime yesterday, but not with any help from school police. In a club full of potential witnesses, only two came forward -- and neither was a school police officer. Melissa writes:

According to court records, none of the five school police officers could identify the gunman, who escaped and was apprehended almost three weeks later.

The officers told investigators that they were "stomped" on or "trampled" by other guests. Another, when asked why he did not come forward, said he was "shook up," according to a transcript of his interview with police.

A city homicide detective questioning him responded that police officers are not supposed to get "shook up."

 

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:42 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

January 15, 2008

Food fights becoming costly, popular in U.S. schools

For all those students American students who missed the memo from Mama that warned against playing with food, these examples should thwart any future thoughts of food fights.

Seven Wisconsin high school students, ages 17 and 18, are facing fines and four-day suspensions after being involved in a food fight in their cafeteria last month.

In Howard County, a high school principal made news when he offered students a $30 reward for any information about students involved in a food fight in December. Read more here.

While researching the phenomenon, I found a slew of YouTube videos with cafeteria food fights. I also came across this theory that suggests that the popularity of YouTube has contributed to a growth in food fights. Apparently students are trying to one-up one another by starting food fights and then posting the mayhem on the site.

What is going on with all these food fights? Are these just isolated incidents, or are food fights a major problem in U.S. schools?

When I was growing up food fights were almost a rite of passage. I didn’t participate in these childish antics. (Not that I was a goody-goody. I was a fat kid who wouldn’t dream of throwing away his lunch.)

While I can recall dodging french fries and chicken nuggets, I can’t remember students facing court-imposed fines, or principals offering monetary rewards for information leading to the lunch launchers.

January 14, 2008

Girl's false accusations have readers fuming

I've heard this morning from several readers about articles I wrote last week regarding the 11-year-old girl at Perry Hall Middle School who falsely accused a construction worker of sexually assaulting her in the school's restroom.

Most of the emailers expressed anger that a man's reputation was nearly ruined and his livelihood could've been jeopardized by the girl's false assertions, such as this one from a reader in Irvine, Calif. ...

"I think that rape is a serious and terrible crime, and that clearly it does go on. However, it is also clear that unsubstantiated allegations of rape or violence happen very frequently and that these false allegations also victimize innocent people and destroy lives. We need society to move toward a model in which people cannot get away with either of these things."

But the most compelling one (at least by my estimation) is one that comes from a vendor representative who says she has spent many years coordinating efforts between her company and local school systems. In her email, she wrote that she often suggested that school systems issue IDs to contract workers. She wrote, in part:

"There are many people on a school campus. Those that belong, who are employed by the school system, have IDs. Volunteers now go through more of a process and most also have IDs. But those that are contracted by the school system, and actually need to conduct a serious amount of work, for the greatest good, are subject to understandable protocol, numerous questions from a multitude of staff, who are just trying to do their job in protecting children.

"I would get stopped repeatedly, questioning why I was on campus. While making deliveries for children in which I needed to dolly in numerous loads, employees would actually shut the door in attempt to protect the school without any way to indicate I was coming back with more items for their children. I finally made my own sign to post on the propped door indicating its purpose. But I didn't get upset, as I, too, have children and respect everyone's dedication to protect them.

"I have always thought that since everyone is on the same team, and protecting children is of the utmost importance, subjecting vendor personnel to fingerprinting is understandable. These employees should receive a photo ID from the school system indicating they are approved to conduct work on campus. It turns a stranger into a comrade at a glance. And allows everyone to achieve their individual successes to complete the puzzle of best support for everyone's children in academic acceleration."

Here's part of my reply to the angry emailers:

In the end, as I have shared with another reader who called me today, it's unfair to assume the school system and legal authorities aren't taking the girl's false allegations seriously. As I reported, the school system is prohibited from discussing with us what, if any, consequences the girl may face (such as suspension or expulsion). And the state's attorney's office made it clear, as we reported, that they felt confident the girl's family was best suited to handle this situation.

One of the questions I asked of all the parents to whom I spoke was whether they worried that these false allegations would cause them to initially doubt other reports of similar accusations, should this ever happen again. Most of them said it was unfortunate, that one who lies can create this layer of doubt for all others. Again, they came back to the point that it would be better to take this as an opportunity to tighten those controls at the school site to avoid being in this position again.

Gina

To read more of the emails and the rest of my reply, click on the link below ...

Continue reading "Girl's false accusations have readers fuming" »

January 11, 2008

Third Howard County teacher to go to court in March for allegations of sexual contact with students

I’ve spent most of the week in court covering the trial of Joseph Samuel Ellis, a 25-year-old former Glenelg High School history teacher accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with several female students. Read more about the outcome of that case here.

Turns out this week has served as a primer for what’s coming up in March, when I will likely cover the trial of Alan Meade Beier.

Beier, for those of you who are not familiar with the case, is a former River Hill teacher accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with students.

All three cases against Beier will take place in Howard County Circuit Court on March 26. Originally one of the cases was scheduled for February 12, but a motion on December 20, 2007, postponed that case, which allowed all three cases to go to trial at the same time.

Beier, 52, a former chemistry and physics, was arrested on January 12, 2007. He is accused of undressing and photographing a 16-year-old boy in his classroom and with fondling a 17-year-old female student. A third student also reported inappropriate contact with Beier.

Beier is the third and final Howard County teacher arrested during a two-month period during the 2006-2007 school year to appear in Circuit Court for allegations of having inappropriate sexual contact with students.

Kirsten Ann Kinley, 28, a former teacher at Marriotts Ridge High School, pleaded guilty in August to having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy while she was a teacher at Hammond Middle School in late 2004 and early 2005. The boy was not a student at Hammond Middle. Kinley was sentenced to serve 18 months at the county detention center in November.

Do you think that there are enough safeguards in place to prevent situations like these? Do you think these incidents are isolated or do they represent a growing problem? Before you comment, check out some of these stories here, here, here, and here.

December 29, 2007

The role of building conditions in school safety

I had a lot of ground to cover in my story today about school violence in Baltimore. One issue that didn't make it into the article but that I think is worthy of consideration: how building conditions contribute to school safety.

One place I looked at was the Dr. Samuel L. Banks/Thurgood Marshall complex. After I inquired, school system officials discovered that the fire alarm there wasn't working. This in a building where four arsons were reported in the month of November. It wasn't until December that the alarm was fixed. Officials also discovered that many of the building's 64 interior security cameras were not operational; I'm told most have been fixed, as have broken locks on classroom doors.

At the Walbrook high school complex, again after my inquiries, officials found 19 rooms didn't have working intercoms -- leaving teachers unable to call for help if a problem arises.

I know a lot of folks are away for the break, but I'd love for those of you who are reading to weigh in on how building conditions at your school foster an environment of safety, or lack thereof. And why aren't these basic safety violations being reported to the central office as soon as they arise?

On a brighter note... The Street Soldiers program -- run at the Lake Clifton high school complex and at Baltimore City Community College for students on long-term suspension -- seems to be having a lot of success in changing kids' attitudes toward violence. Learn more about the program, funded in Baltimore through grants from the Open Society Institute and the Family League, here. Thanks to all the students enrolled in Street Soldiers who shared their stories with me.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

December 13, 2007

A tough day in Cherry Hill

I'm not the lead reporter on today's breaking news story about the massive fight among students at New Era and Southside academies, but it sounds like it stemmed from ongoing tension between the two schools. I interviewed a New Era student recently who said that kids from Southside view the students from New Era (one of the city's six "innovation" high schools) as nerds, and the New Era kids then feel the need to protect themselves.

This isn't the only campus in Baltimore experiencing conflict between different schools under the same roof. I'd be interested to hear from those of you in these multiplexes about the dynamics at play and what might be done to improve the situation.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 4:27 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

December 11, 2007

Do you want metal detectors in your school?

If you work in a school in Baltimore -- a middle or a high school at least -- that's the question your principal should be posing to you this week. And if you're a parent of a city student, you should be asked for feedback as well.

As I report in my story today, Andres Alonso is willing to let schools install metal detectors if the staff and community is supportive of the decision.

We went through the pros and cons of the metal detector debate just over a year ago, after an 8-year-old brought a loaded gun to Grove Park Elementary. Click below for an article a colleague and I wrote on the topic.

City teachers and parents: Have your schools asked your opinion on this issue? And what position are you taking?

Continue reading "Do you want metal detectors in your school?" »

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

December 3, 2007

Leave the food and drinks at home at Howard County high school games!

Thinking about bringing food or beverages to a sporting event at a Howard County high school? Forget about it!

The school system has just announced that outside food and beverages will be banned at all county athletic venues including gymnasiums and stadiums. The effort is part of the school system’s attempts to thwart alcohol consumption and to keep their facilities clean.

The food and beverage ban in gymnasiums takes effect immediately. The stadiums ban takes effect when the spring sports season begins on March 1, 2008.

Read more about it in The Sun’s online edition.

What are your thoughts about the ban?

November 28, 2007

Suspicious numbers not so suspicious

I guess I qualify as what Sara calls an "old timer" because I do remember why the suspension rate went down abruptly in the city during the 2004-2005 school year.

The city school system was trying to avoid having its schools labeled "presistently dangerous" under No Child Left Behind. Principals and teachers told us that year that the city school administration had warned them to stop suspending so many students because they feared too many schools would receive the designation the following year.

The problem was that teachers weren't given any training or help in reducing misbehavior in the classroom. So teachers reported that when students misbehaved and were sent to the office, nothing happened. Students weren't being suspended, even for serious infractions, and so began an escalation of violence in the schools.

Some readers may remember a rash of fires in high schools and middle schools as well as an increase in fights that year. Fire engines began parking in front of some schools, like Walbrook High School, for most of the school day. Eventually, the violence subsided, but schools in the city did get the dangerous label.

 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:34 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City, NCLB, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 26, 2007

The role of teachers in school violence

My story in Sunday's paper looks at the case of Bridget Banks, a Baltimore mother who won a $100,000 judgment against the city school system. The lawsuit Banks filed says her 12-year-old daughter was attacked and sexually assaulted by seven boys in a special education class at Southeast Middle School in November 2002 while a teacher failed to intervene.

Reporting this story, it was chilling to think how quickly a classroom can get out of control, with a child's life forever altered. It also made me wonder, what is a teacher's responsibility if an attack is going on in your classroom? I don't think anyone would argue that doing nothing is the answer. But do you jump in the middle? Call others for help? What if there aren't any other adults around? It's a horrible position to be in, and it's a situation I know many teachers in the city are faced with all the time when fights break out. I'm not saying that sexual assaults are common in city schools (at least, I hope they're not, and the statistics show they're not), but violence is a fact of life in many buildings and classrooms. What is the appropriate response?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:40 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 16, 2007

More fallout from the City-Poly fight

Poly Principal Barney Wilson said he has suspended four girls, all juniors, for their part in the melee after the City-Poly football game Saturday. Baltimore city and schools police arrested 22  girls from the brawl, which you can read more about here. The girls at Poly were given three-day suspensions. According to city police, one girl from the school was treated and released at a hospital after being kicked in the head. 

Wilson called the fight "unfortunate" and said it was a carryover from other venues where students come in contact with each other. Although Poly and City students were involved, Wilson said the fight had nothing to do with animosity between the rival schools, and he reiterated the fact that girls from six other schools were involved.

Some parents, however, say the problem is bigger than administrators are willing to acknowledge. One woman who e-mailed The Sun after the article ran says her granddaughter and her friends have been fighting away from campus recently, although they weren't part of the brawl outside the stadium and haven't been suspended. Another mother says she wants to see the principals from some of the city schools hold a forum to address the rowdy behavior, particularly by the girls. The mother said the fight after the game was fueled by Internet banter on Myspace.

As for Wilson's take on the fight, he called it a spontaneous incident but not much more than that. Wilson said the City-Poly game is one of the oldest in the country (119 years) and rarely has there been something like what took place Saturday. "I don't think anyone involved is proud of what they did. We expect more from them," he said.

Posted by Brent Jones at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 13, 2007

Link between Finland school shooting and thwarted Pa. attacks

Here’s an update to two stories that you have been reading about on this blog.

CNN is reporting that a jailed Pennsylvania teen, who is suspected of plotting a Columbine-style attack on his old school, was in communication with the student who killed eight people in a shooting last week in Finland.

The pair met through the social-networking Web site MySpace. Read more here.

As you may remember, Dillon Cossey, 14, of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, was charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment after his arrest last month.

His mother Michele Cossey, 46, is accused of buying him a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle, a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle and black powder used to make grenades.

Cossey was charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, fatally shot three women and five boys before turning his gun on himself last week.

The AP reported that the shooting appeared to have been planned out in videos posted on YouTube by Auvinen.

November 7, 2007

YouTube, Finland school shooting linked

At least eight people were killed today when an 18-year-old gunman went on a shooting spree at a school in Finland.

At least 12 people sustained minor injuries during the shooting.

The suspected shooter is in critical condition. A hospital official would not say how he was injured. The AP is reporting that police sources say he tried to take his own life.

The AP is also reporting that the shooting appeared to have been planned out in videos posted on YouTube by Pekka-Eric Auvinen.

YouTube has appeared to have removed 89 videos linked to his account shortly after the shootings. Many of the videos feature Nazi imagery.

There seem to be a few similarities between this case and past American shootings.

The Columbine kids also expressed a fondness for Nazis. The Virginia Tech shooter videotaped himself shortly before that massacre.

Guess this most recent shooting dispels the belief that school violence is an American problem.

November 5, 2007

Abuse at Oprah’s South African School

Tiny Virginia Makopo, 27, was charged with 13 counts of abusing and assaulting students at Oprah’s school for disadvantaged girls, which is located outside of Johannesburg.

Makopo pleaded not guilty and was released today on bail. Makopo, who was a matron at the school, faces charges of assault, indecent assault, and crimen injuria, which involves verbal abuse which violates the victim's dignity. Authorities alleges there were seven victims. Six are between the ages of 13 and 14 and one was 23.

Sounds like heads are going to role at the school. Oprah said the head mistress' contract will not be renewed. She also indicated that there will be restructuring at the school.

As you may remember, Oprah came under fire for opening the $40 million school in January. Some questioned the amount of money she spent on foreign children when the state of education in United States is in such shambles. (I do not necessarily share these views. I’m just giving you a little history, folks.)

I actually feel really bad for Oprah. The talk show host has been open about the abuse that she suffered as a child. It must really sting that the school she opened has now been affected by abuse. 

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

Runaway teacher to appear in court today

A Nebraska middle school teacher accused of running away to Mexico with an 13-year-old student is scheduled to appear in court today.

Kelsey Peterson, 25, and Fernando Rodriguez, were taken into custody Friday in Mexicali, Mexico, after the boy called his family asking them for money.

The pair apparently had an agreement to flee after stories that they were having sex surfaced, according to authorities.

Peterson is charged in Nebraska with kidnapping, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She also faces federal charges of transporting a minor across state lines or a foreign border for sexual activity.

Sounds like the relationship might cost Fernando his education in the United States. Turns out Fernando was an illegal immigrant. He has been turned over family members in Mexico. He might not be able to return to the rural Nebraska town where he was an eighth-grader.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

November 2, 2007

Do bulletproof backpacks work?

I stumbled across a promo for this story while watching TV shows the other night.

 I try to stay away from local news stations for the most part. I went to the ABC2News Web site for the story and the video.

ABC2News tested out the $175 backpack by having bullets fired into it. The backpack actually worked, although their expert said the backpack “would likely have been useless against the high-powered weapons used in shootings like Columbine and Jonesboro.”

The ABC story suggests that a bundle of books might be an effective way to protect against bullets.

Would you purchase one of these bags for your kids? Do you think that they are effective? (A bulletproof vest at least protects your torso. These bags would only protect the area that is covered.)

I also included this “Art Fennell Reports” segment on the issue.

 

October 22, 2007

Sex abuse: Who is teaching your children?

The AP is reporting that American teachers commit an abusive sexual act at a rate of nearly three times for every school day. Wow!

A seven-month investigation reveals that there were more than 2,500 cases during a five-year-period where educators were disciplined for sexual misconduct.

Of the 2,570 educators, young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of the cases. More than 80 percent of those were students.

This is a subject that I have dealt with extensively in Howard County. During a two-month-period last school year, I reported that three Howard County teachers were arrested for having inappropriate sexual contact with students. Their cases are currently making their way through the judiciary system.

There were also a slew of cases in the counties surrounding Baltimore.

What safeguards do schools need to take to ensure that abusive teachers are kept out of the classrooms?

October 12, 2007

Mother armed son in thwarted Pennsylvania shooting, prosecutors say

Prosecutors say the mother of the Pennsylvania high school student gave her son the guns and bomb making materials prior to the thwarted attempt.

Michele Cossey, 46, is accused of buying him a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle, a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle and black powder used to make grenades.

Cossey was charged today with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Read more about it here on CNN.com.

What kind of punishment – if any – do you feel she deserves, if she's found guilty?

October 11, 2007

Lockdown lifted

Update: Carroll County schools are no longer on lockdown.

School officials issued this statement moments ago ...

At 1:00 p.m., the Maryland State Police advised Carroll County Public Schools to reduce our security level from CODE ORANGE to CODE YELLOW.  The school system normally operates on CODE YELLOW. Accordingly, all school and after school activities will continue as scheduled.

 

Posted by Gina Davis at 2:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

School shootings, armed teachers: Should bullets mix with books?

I was watching a very interesting segment this morning about the Cleveland high school shootings on The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet  that I thought would interest you.

Not sure how they were able to pull this off, but the show was able to have the mayor of Cleveland,  Frank Jackson, and its CEO of schools, Eugene Sanders, appear on the show with Shirley Katz, the Oregon teacher who wants the right to be able to bring a concealed gun to school. Talk about great producers!

Anywho, the show had a brief overview of the issue of teachers being allowed to bring guns to schools. I learned that politicians from Wisconsin and Michigan are currently working on legislation that would allow school employees to bring guns to school.

Katz threw a curve ball when she said that she wanted to be armed to protect herself from her abusive ex-husband and to thwart school-related shootings. [Way to use a current situation to help your own cause….] Up until now every story that I have read about this teacher has pointed to her ex-husband as the reason for wanting to bring a gun to school.

I thought it was interesting that both Jackson and Sanders disagreed with Katz and said that teachers should not be able to bring guns to schools. Think about it. Both of them now have first hand knowledge about the effects of a school shooting and neither believe that teachers should be armed… Just a little food for thought.

Oh yeah, when asked if she has snuck a gun into the school in the past, Katz would not answer. Her silence spoke volumes to me. If I was a parent at that school my kids would be withdrawing immediately!

For more about the shootings in Cleveland click on this link for stories, and videos. Sounds like the kid was pretty disturbed. It also appears that there were a few warning signs...

Have a safe day…

UPDATE: Carroll County Schools are currently locked down after someone threatened a shooting at a county high school. Read more here. Check for updates on The Sun's homepage.

October 10, 2007

Cleveland: latest site for school shooting

In yet another sad sign of the times, a school shooting has captured the attention of America. This time a High School student in Cleveland has apparently shot five people today.

Read more in this AP account.

What can be done – if anything – to thwart these incidents from taking place?

Unsafe schools and staph infections

Forget about school violence for a moment. American schools now have to worry about a lack of safety because of unsanitary conditions.

Four local high schools - Severna Park, Glen Burnie, Old Mill and Chesapeake - have received reports of 28 staphylococcus infections over the past three weeks. Read Ruma’s story for more details.

I also stumbled upon this story from Troy, Ohio detailing similar conditions.

What is going on here?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

October 9, 2007

Howard County School ‘shooting victims’ lied

Today the paper ran a story I wrote about two 11-year-old Howard County boys whom alleged that they were shot by pellets on their way to school last week.

Police now say that the two lied.

At this point police do not know what prompted the two to fabricate the incidents. In addition, no charges have been filed against either youth.

What kind of punishment – if any -- do these two deserve?

The police department used a helicopter and its K-9 units to search for the suspect that the two boys lied about. In addition, the accusations caused a panic in the area. One school held indoor recess. Many said that the incidents reminded them of the sniper attacks of October 2002.

Should the two have to pay the police department for the time and resources spent on these false claims? You decide.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Howard County, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

October 8, 2007

Oregon teacher sues to bring gun to classroom

A Medford, Oregon, teacher is suing for the right to bring her semi-automatic handgun to work with her.

The teacher says that she needs the concealed weapon for protection from her abusive ex-husband.

Click here for the Oregonian article; here for the CNN video. View the YouTube link down below. I wish I were making this up, folks!

To the teacher: enroll in witness protection if things are that bad. If you are this worried about your safety, then why are you putting the lives of all your students in danger? I think this is a truly selfish and potentially dangerous act. Find a new profession!

 

September 21, 2007

Students stand for Jena 6

Milford Mill Academy teacher Pamela Nevel sounded like a proud mother in her email as she wrote about the hundreds of students who showed up yesterday morning to protest in support of the "Jena 6," as thousands of others did across Maryland and the rest of the nation.

"It was super and moving," she wrote.

Several of her students also wrote in yesterday with their own accounts of how the protest had affected them. Read comments they sent to us here at Classroom Connections. Among the comments was this gem from 10th-grader Janakhte' Page:

"I, along with Briana Haden, held up a sign that read "Honk if you support the Jena 6". We held that sign up with pride and screamed to the top of our lungs. ... Most people just ignore racism or pretend that it doesn't exist because they do not want to face the truth and the pain of racism. No one pays attention until somebody gets hurt or gets put in jail and that is exactly what happened. Racism is alive and I feel that the protest let people know that it still is. I was proud to be a part of a positive protest that reflects our community's consideration for others."

September 14, 2007

Bathroom bullies

Some school design experts in the U.K. are proposing "unisex" bathrooms as the way to curb bullying, according to the National Education Association.

The folks at NEA wrote in this month's neatoday magazine ... 

"A commission charged with making newly constructed middle and high schools more safe and efficient is recommending blurred glass walls in his-and-her loos. They think unisex toilets will discourage students from lingering. Students had told the commission that they avoided the bathrooms, sometimes not going all day, for fear of being harassed. 'There are always people in there smoking, and they are bullies,' one 13-year-old told BBC News. 'I don't want my head dunked down the toilet.' "

Posted by Gina Davis at 11:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

August 31, 2007

Police stations in schools

 Many of you have heard of school resource police officers. Some have even heard of the concept of community policing. Detroit Public Schools are taking things to a new level. Read this story and tell me what you think about their plans to operate mini-stations within schools.
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:34 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

May 4, 2007

Are schools safe?

Today’s article headlined "2 Teens Held on Bomb Charge" again raised questions about what school officials are doing to ensure students are safe in the schoolhouse. While no explosives were found at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School yesterday, police said the two girls who were eventually arrested told investigators they had tried without success to set off a homemade bomb about two weeks ago at the Pikesville-area school.

Sudbrook Magnet Middle School

Anxious parents — who rushed to the school after word filtered out through a voicemail message from the principal distributed on the school system’s mass-messaging service — understandably had many questions as they scanned the crowd of evacuated students for their children. They wondered why the girls were allowed back in the school after the previous incident and what school officials were doing to make sure children and staff members are safe at Sudbrook.

Baltimore County school officials have a safety plan that includes specific duties for staff members during emergencies such as yesterday’s incident at Sudbrook.

Do you think school officials are doing enough to keep schools safe? What would you like to see them do differently? Are you worried that schools are becoming less safe? Do you think school officials do a good enough job of communicating with parents, students and the community when incidents like this occur?

In addition to hearing your thoughts today, we invite you to check out Monday’s "Education Q&A," which will take up the issue of school safety.

 

Posted by Gina Davis at 12:55 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

May 2, 2007

This just in.....

My colleague -- and podmate -- Melissa Harris is chatting up all types of sources, and typing away, while developing a story about the University of Maryland's new plan to institute an emergency text-message service in light of the Virginia Tech massacre. The system, however, is voluntary, meaning students have to sign up to receive the messages.
What do you think about that? If you were a student there, would you sign up for the service?

Check out Melissa's story, and check out the results of our first "Education Q and A" Monday, which will focus on school security.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        
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