Magnet school plan would focus on law, policy

August 05, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County's burgeoning crop of magnet schools could sprout another -- a law and public policy program at Towson High School for the 1995-96 school year.

Still weeks away from school board approval, the proposed program would blend required social studies courses with electives, such as forensic science, juvenile justice, environmental law and the basics of state and local government. It also would capitalize on the proximity to the Towson courthouse and county government offices.

A 30-member committee that has been looking at magnet possibilities for Towson will present its proposal to the community Sept. 12. It will ask for board approval later in September.

"We want to make sure that the community knows what we are doing," said Janice Mabry, a Towson social studies teacher and chairwoman of the magnet committee. Towson would offer the law and public policy program in addition to its regular curriculum. "We're a school that has a good program. We want to preserve what we have and add a program."

The proposed magnet program would be open to as many Towson students as are interested, and about 50 students a year from other schools, she said.

"We don't have a clue as to how many will be interested, but my sense is that a lot of people will be," said Ms. Mabry. "I know kids love law issues."

The magnet program would begin with ninth graders only. The outside students students could come from anywhere in the county, she added.

Although the county has magnet programs at more than a dozen elementary, middle and high schools, Towson's would be the first on law and government.

"People have asked us, 'Why are you doing law? You have too many lawyers,' " said Ms. Mabry.

But the magnet courses won't be just for future lawyers or politicians, she said. "The skill development involved in this program will allow kids to do so many things," she said. Among those skills are public speaking, debate, writing and knowledge of law and government.

For students in the magnet program, the regular high school courses will be geared toward their specialty. And for nonmagnet students, the program will offer a new body of electives.

Magnet programs focus on a specific curriculum and accept students from outside a school's boundary for that program. Besides offering choice, magnets are designed to voluntarily desegregate schools.

The Towson program is not designed to change the racial makeup of the school, but it could fill the school's empty seats and alleviate overcrowding in other areas. With a capacity of 1,176, Towson had about 970 students last year, according to school system statistics.

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