City to try for safer dismissal at Hampstead Hill school Extra MTA buses sought so students won't linger at city middle school.

May 22, 1991|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

In the wake of community complaints, city school officials plan to revise dismissal policies at Hampstead Hill Middle School as suggested by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The school system today was expected to ask the state's Mass Transit Administration to provide five additional buses each day to ferry students away from the school, according to Willie J. Foster, director of middle schools.

Currently, there are only two MTA buses assigned to the school, despite the fact that 65 percent to 70 percent of the school's more than 1,200 students live outside the immediate neighborhood.

If MTA adds the buses, the school will dismiss sixth-graders and special-education students at 2:30 p.m. each day, and seventh- and eighth-graders at 2:40 p.m.

Students who live outside the area will be strongly encouraged to ride the buses home to their own neighborhoods, rather than linger near the school.

"If we can get them on the bus, we can get them out of the neighborhood, and that will help calm that neighborhood," said Douglas J. Neilson, a school system spokesman.

In addition, city police have agreed to station a patrol car within sight of the school at dismissal time. Officials made a similar move earlier this school year at Robert Poole Middle School in Hampden, which has been the site of racial friction.

The school department will also seek to add a school police officer to the one already in place at Hampstead Hill.

During a visit to the neighborhood earlier this week, Schmoke recommended a number of steps aimed at preventing other violent incidents. Among them were staggered dismissal times, additional buses and increased police presence.

School officials admit they have received some community complaints through the year about the behavior of dismissed students.

But they draw a sharp distinction between the usual after-school rowdiness that leads to community complaints and the violent attack in Patterson Park last week.

Foster said that Hampstead Hill has neither a higher level of complaints nor a record of more serious complaints than other middle schools around the city.

She and other school officials also argue that those complaints need to be seen in context.

Middle school children in general "are loud, they are boisterous, they are mischievous, they are not respectful," said Foster. And they tend to be clannish, gathering in groups.

When they leave school at the end of the day, students often take the opportunity to settle fights they have had in school, she noted. They may also resent complaints by neighbors about their behavior.

"They are in a neighborhood that would like to have some peace and quiet," said Foster. "People's nerves just get a little rattled."

Hampstead Hill is a predominantly black school in a mostly white neighborhood. It draws its population from eight elementary schools spread across a wide area of East Baltimore.

But Foster rejects suggestions that there is any racial friction behind the neighborhood complaints, saying that neighbors also have complained about white students.

Neilson, meanwhile, said, "You've got a community that doesn't want these kids there. Because of their resentment and dislike of these kids in their neighborhood, the kids know that, and they react."

He also said the problem has been aggravated by non-students lingering near the school and meeting up with Hampstead Hill students.

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