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January 25, 2010

Councilman urges schools to teach rail dangers

In the aftermath of this month's death of 14-year-old  Anna Marie Stickel (right) along the Amtrak tracks in Middle River, Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. is weighing in to ask the county school system to do a better job of educating students about the dangers of intruding in the railroad right-of-way.

According to students at Kenwood High School, where Anna was a  freshman, the school administration had said little or nothing to them about the dangers of the tracks before Anna's death. Past students at the school report that in the past, school authorities would hold assemblies to emphasize the hazards -- a practice  that apparently fell by the wayside in recent years. The councilman makes a good point. Here's his letter:


           January 21, 2010

 Dr. Joe Hairston


Department of Education

6901 N. Charles Street

Towson, Maryland 21204

Dear Dr. Hairston:

The recent tragedy in Middle River that took the life of one of our students is cause for much sadness and concern. It is not the first tragedy involving the railroad tracks and fast moving trains.

Anna Marie Stickel age 14 lost her life as she walked to school with her friend. We know she shouldn’t have been walking so near the train, but many of the students use this as a short cut. Many of our youngsters don’t fully realize the dangers of this type of action. It is up to us to help them with this and put in place warnings and information about the dangers. We cannot blame Anna Marie for her immaturity in making a foolish choice of how to get to school. She is gone and her family and friends are left to grieve.

 In the wake of her death, lets begin to take measures to hopefully prevent another tragedy from happening. I believe the Baltimore County school system can play an important role in this. I would like to see this added to the student handbook, perhaps a page devoted to safety measures if you live in a community that is close to any railway. I also recommend that this be included in morning announcements. A warning should be made to students to stay away from train tracks. It should be stressed, especially in the Middle River area, that there are no safe short cuts to school. School assemblies would be a good place to emphasize this.

Lastly, if this could be highlighted in public TV spots that the Board of Education sponsors, it would catch the attention of the general public. Perhaps there are more measures that could be taken. I don’t think we could overdo the precaution messages.

 I know that everyone needs to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Parents should be talking with their children and making them aware of the dangers of coming near the fast moving trains. In a perfect world this would all take place. I don’t want Anna Marie’s death to be in vain. We mourn her loss, but we will do what we can to make sure another student doesn’t lose his or her own life.

I know you have the best interests of our students in your heart and mind. Thank you for your assistance and attention.

Sincerely, John Olszewski, Sr.

County Council

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads


To use an oft-repeated Jay Leno question, where are the parents? Fobbing off this responsibility onto the schools is an abdication of parental responsibility. I see where Mr. Olszewski throws out a reference late in his letter to personal and parental responsibility; that's not good enough. Parents have to take over and do their jobs. The schools have too much on their plates as it is trying to teach irrelevant material that intrudes upon the three R's. Don't weigh them down any further.

I haven't seen anything in the reporting of this story that indicates the young woman in this instance was not as familiar with safety protocols as any other kid (like myself) who has grown up near tracks learns well before they are old enough to be out by themselves.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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