Dis­trict Six Law­mak­ers weigh in on school vi­o­lence

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By MIA MCCASLIN mm­c­caslin@ches­pub.com

A Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic Schools (BCPS) spokesper­son is re­spond­ing af­ter par­ents, elected of­fi­cials and oth­ers have raised con­cerns over a per­ceived uptick in vi­o­lence in county schools.

The elected del­e­ga­tion Dis­trict 6 and 7 are among those speak­ing out about claims of vi­o­lent ha­rass­ment and bul­ly­ing in schools.

Coun­cil­man Todd Cran­dell (R-7), state Sen. Johnny

Ray Salling (R-6) and Dels. Bob Long, Ric Met­z­gar and Robin Gram­mer (all R-6) are de­mand­ing that the school board take ac­tion to ad­dress the is­sue.

The group re­leased a press re­lease last week de­tail­ing what they be­lieve should be the course of ac­tion mov­ing for­ward, which in­cludes en­gag­ing young minds both in and out­side of school and en­forc­ing strict con­se­quences when vi­o­lent in­ci­dents oc­cur. The full text of this press re­lease is lo­cated at the bot­tom of this ar­ti­cle.

“The Board should con­duct a pub­lic hear­ing as soon as pos­si­ble so par­ents can be heard,” stated the press re­lease. “The Board needs to hear what we as elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives are hear­ing. This dis­cus­sion should con­tinue through­out the sum­mer so schools can plan now in or­der to ad­dress stu­dents and par­ents when doors re-open in the Fall.”

Ac­cord­ing to the del­e­ga­tion, a let­ter re­quest­ing this pub­lic hear­ing has been sent.

The del­e­ga­tion also im­plored the need for parental in­volve­ment both in and out­side of the school walls.

“Kids need role mod­els,” said Del. Long. “I was raised by a sin­gle mom and I know how im­por­tant men­tor­ship was for me.”

Al­though the del­e­gates re­port an in­crease in parental con­cern, no spe­cific ex­am­ples have been brought to light. At time of press, the of­fices of Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic School have not yet com­mented on the al­leged up­take in vi­o­lence.

Al­though the elected of­fi­cials re­port an in­crease in parental con­cern, no spe­cific ex­am­ples of vi­o­lence or weapons in lo­cal schools have been pro­vided to the Ea­gle.

“I’ve heard about [the in­crease] from a few folks,” said BCPS spokesman My­chael Dick­er­son. “I be­lieve a lot of this is be­ing brought up by so­cial me­dia and peo­ple shar­ing videos, but many of those that I’ve seen have been old, old videos.”

Dick­er­son went on to claim that, of the videos he had not pre­vi­ously seen, many of these new videos were recorded in neigh­bor­hoods, out of the ju­ris­dic­tion of the school board.

Ac­cord­ing to Dick­er­son, the school sys­tem has in­sti­tuted an pol­icy al­low­ing for anony­mous re­port­ing of such in­ci­dences. Since that pol­icy went into ef­fect, he added, BCPS has seen an in­crease in re­ports from stu­dents.

“We’re not re­ally com­ment­ing be­cause we don’t re­ally know what is­sues they’re re­fer­ring to,” he said in re­sponse to com­ments from elected of­fi­cials, not­ing that, if and when more in­for­ma­tion be­comes avail­able, it will be shared pub­licly.

Dick­er­son added that out­go­ing BCPS su­per­in­ten­dent Dal­las Dance’s res­ig­na­tion is not a re­sult of the al­leged in­crease in vi­o­lence in schools.

The del­e­ga­tion’s full re­lease can be read be­low:

“This week marks the end of the Bal­ti­more County Pub- lic Schools 2016-17 school year. We are so proud of our lo­cal high school grad­u­ates, the mil­lions of dol­lars in schol­ar­ships they have earned, as well as their many aca­demic, ath­letic, and hu­man­i­tar­ian achieve­ments. We are equally proud of the stu­dents through­out the BCPS sys­tem who con­trib­ute pos­i­tively to their school com­mu­nity.

As the elected lead­ers of Dun­dalk, Es­sex, Rosedale, and Edge­mere, we must, how­ever, ex­press our deep con­cerns re­gard­ing school safety, stu­dent be­hav­ior, and dis­ci­pline. Since we took of­fice in 2014, there have been many in­ci­dents through­out our dis­trict – in el­e­men­tary, mid­dle, and high schools – that in­clude crim­i­nal vi­o­lence, bul­ly­ing, and other forms of ha­rass­ment that have no place in our schools. That trend con­tin­ued to the end of this school year, with nu­mer­ous re­ports and com­plaints from par­ents, leav­ing us trou­bled by the seem­ing lack of con­sis­tency, con­se­quences, and sound dis­ci­plinary pol­icy.

No child should be fear­ful of at­tend­ing school or have the be­hav­ior of oth­ers af­fect their learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence. When a child mis­be­haves, there should be quick, de­ci­sive, and con­sis­tent dis­ci­pline. In our many dis­cus­sions with teach­ers and par­ents, we are learn­ing that the op­po­site is the case. What ex­actly are we teach­ing our chil­dren when there are lit­tle to no con­se­quences of their ac­tions? Cur­rent pol­icy is set­ting chil­dren up for ma­jor fail­ure as they ma­ture into adult­hood be­liev­ing that so­ci­ety will look the other way when they do wrong. We are strongly ad­vo­cat­ing to both the in­com­ing In­terim Su­per­in­ten­dent, and the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion for a change in pol­icy and prac­tices.

Most im­me­di­ately, the Board should con­duct a pub­lic hear­ing as soon as pos­si­ble so par­ents can be heard. The Board needs to hear what we as elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives are hear­ing. This dis­cus­sion should con­tinue through­out the sum­mer so schools can plan now in or­der to ad­dress stu­dents and par­ents when doors re-open in the Fall. A let­ter re­quest­ing such a pub­lic hear­ing has been sent to the Board.

Se­condly, we en­cour­age our schools’ lead­er­ship to find new ways to en­gage par­ents and guardians. The suc­cess of a school is di­rectly pro­por­tional to parental in­volve­ment. Par­ents and guardians should un­der­stand the ex­pec­ta­tions of them and their chil­dren, and also know that bad be­hav­ior which dis­rupts or jeop­ar­dizes the safety of oth­ers, will be met with se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

For all of the great­ness and prom­ise we see in our youth, we strongly be­lieve our school sys­tem is in need of a dis­ci­pline pol­icy over­haul and a bet­ter en­force­ment model. What has been de­scribed to us as “sweep­ing it un­der the rug so the num­bers look bet­ter” is not sound pol­icy, es­pe­cially when the safety of both stu­dents and fac­ulty is clearly at risk.

As al­ways, please con­tact us to weigh in on this or any other is­sue.

Coun­cil­man Todd K. Cran­dell

State Sen­a­tor Johnny Ray Salling State Del­e­gate Bob Long State Del­e­gate Ric Met­z­gar State Del­e­gate Robin Gram­mer”

The Av­enue will con­tinue to fol­low this is­sue as more in­for­ma­tion be­comes avail­able.

PHOTO BY GIANNA DECARLO

Lo­cal leg­is­la­tors (from left) State Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) and Dels. Robin Gram­mer, Ric Met­z­gar and Del. Bob Long (all R-6) held a Town Hall in Mid­dle River ear­lier this year

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