Baltimore may start a special middle school for disruptive youngsters, following repeated complaints about violence and discipline problems among young teen-age students.
Plans for a privately run school could be sent to the city school board in about a month, said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who briefed his cabinet on the issue of crime at a meeting today in a West Baltimore elementary school.
The meeting came as a school police officer lies in the hospital with gunshot wounds after allegedly being shot by a 14-year-old Roland Park Elementary/Middle School student yesterday.
But the mayor and school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey announced no dramatic new security measures in the wake of the shooting, saying they would build on efforts already begun to strengthen school security.
And Mayor Schmoke warned that the city can't be expected to solve the problem of school crime by itself.
"The failure yesterday was not a failure of government," he said. "It was a failure of family and a failure of values. We're going to hold the parents of this child accountable for bringing a gun to school."
City officials and community groups reacted with shock to the shooting at a school considered one of Baltimore's best and a magnet for the children of many prominent citizens, including the mayor's 11-year-old daughter, Katherine.
Dr. Amprey last night called the shooting a "setback" for the school system and expressed surprise it had occurred at Roland Park, which is considered one of the city's safest.
The shooting prompted Mr. Schmoke to review what city departments are doing to prevent violent crime.
"People are angry and they're concerned... but there are not magic wand solutions," he said. "We're going to be involved in a sustained and coordinated attack on the problem of crime in Baltimore City."
He warned that "the system, the government, were not set up to be the parent for every child in the city."
But the mayor said one solution may be setting up an alternative middle school to handle disruptive youngsters. Students who cause problems often are shuffled from school to school, a practice that has angered parents and local administrators.
The city has an alternative for older students, the publicly run Francis M. Wood secondary center.
"What we don't have is a good alternative in the middle schools, the problem is in the middle schools."
Such a school "would be freed of all the constraints that we have now in the public system," he said.
That could include mandatory uniforms for students, stricter discipline, even a tough program of physical education.
"I'm not talking about a Hickey School model," he said, referring to the state's juvenile detention center. "I'm talking about an educational concept, where the people are expert in dealing with disruptive behavior."