City Council to examine violence in the schools

November 15, 1994|By Harold Jackson | Harold Jackson,Sun Staff Writer

Prompted by a report showing a sharp increase in violence and crime at Baltimore public schools, the City Council decided last night to conduct a public examination of the problem.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke directed 2nd District Councilman Carl Stokes, chairman of the Education and Human Resources Committee, to schedule a public hearing on violence in the city's schools as soon as possible.

"We have a situation that requires our immediate attention," Mrs. Clarke said.

According to school system statistics, the number of assaults, robberies and gun-possession incidents at city schools rose 42.5 percent, from 47 in 1992-1993 to 67 in the last school year. That was the most since the 1983-1984 school year, when 122 incidents involving guns at schools were reported.

Assaults with deadly weapons, including guns and knives, nearly doubled, from 56 to 104. Armed and unarmed attacks on students, teachers, other staff and school police officers climbed 14.7 percent, to 1,387. Arrests on criminal charges rose 7 percent, from 2,609 to 2,790.

Mrs. Clarke said school security officers have been saying that their numbers have been shrinking as the level of school violence was increasing in recent years. But she said that increasing the number of guards is just one part of the solution to school violence.

Many urban school systems nationally are dealing with violence by using metal detectors and surveillance cameras, placing police officers in the schools and conducting random searches for weapons and drugs.

But Baltimore's school superintendent, Dr. Walter G. Amprey, has emphasized conflict-resolution classes and anti-violence campaigns.

Mrs. Clarke said smaller classes would allow teachers to give more attention to all students, not just those who become disciplinary problems.

"There is no reason that any child in the city should walk to school in fear," Mrs. Clarke said.

Fourth District Councilman Lawrence A. Bell said the school system needs to establish alternative schools for students who are constant discipline problems. "When you have people raising hell and there is no alternative, you have hell," Mr. Bell said.

School system spokesman Nat Harrington said last night that there are two off-campus sites for students whose disruptive behavior has prompted their removal from schools. He said each site can handle 60 students, but neither is at capacity.

Mr. Bell said teachers have been reluctant to talk about the discipline problem, fearing retribution by school system administrators. He speculated that the system's public relations efforts may be obscuring serious problems such as increased violence.

"This is 1994, not 1954," Mr. Bell said. "We need to be creative and not pretend the problem does not exist."

In other action, the council again delayed action on a proposal that would require landlords to take property left after an eviction directly to a disposal site instead of leaving it on the street. Fifth District Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, the bill's sponsor, said she was still reviewing objections to the proposal.

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