Baltimore may start a special middle school for disruptive youngsters, after repeated complaints about violence and discipline problems among young teen-age students.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said today that plans for a privately run school could be sent to the city school board in about a month. The mayor briefed his Cabinet on the issue of crime at a meeting today at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in West Baltimore.
Today's meeting follows yesterday's shooting of a school police officer while he was on duty at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School.
Officer James Kelly, 39, was shot in the abdomen. He was in serious but stable condition today at the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center. Peter Adams, a 14-year-old Roland Park student, is being held on attempted murder charges.
The shooting took place shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday, when Officer Kelly was talking in an office with one of two students who had been involved in an argument.
The mayor and school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey announced no dramatic new security measures today in the wake of the shooting. They said they would build on existing efforts to strengthen school security.
And Mr. 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."
Meanwhile, Mr. Amprey was to meet with all secondary school principals later today to discuss school violence and safety.
But the superintendent rebuffed the idea of installing metal detectors or assigning more school police officers. Instead, he said, he plans to review whether the school police force is going about its job the right way.
City officials and community groups reacted with shock to the shooting at a school considered one of Baltimore's best. It is a magnet school 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" and expressed surprise it had occurred at Roland Park, one of the city's safest.
The shooting prompted Mr. Schmoke to review what city departments' efforts to prevent violent crime.
"People are angry and they're concerned . . . but there are not magic-wand solutions," he said. " . . . The system, the government, were not set up to be the parent for every child in the city."
Mr. Schmoke said one solution may be using 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," the mayor said.
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 in Cub Hill. "I'm talking about an educational concept, where the people are expert in dealing with disruptive behavior."
And while the city should explore the possibility of running such a school itself, Mr. Schmoke appears to favor a privately-run school operated under contract from the city.
That could only be done if the cost is about the same or slightly less than the city spends to deal with disruptive students, he said.