Violence in city schools More discipline needed: Remove disorderly students, prosecute lawbreakers.

October 20, 1995

BALTIMORE'S SCHOOLS are more violent than ever. Robberies and crimes involving guns doubled last school year. Since inadequate measures have been taken so far to increase school security, there is little reason for optimism that things will change this semester.

Police have already investigated two shootings this fall in city schools, one in which a student was wounded. Last year there were 122 gun-related crimes in city schools; 125 robberies; 46 involving a gun or other weapon, and 543 assaults on teachers and other staff, 17 involving weapons.

The violence and aura of intimidation that have become pervasive at some schools provide evidence for those seeking more school police officers. Fewer than 60 officers have been patrolling the city's 18 high schools and 24 middle schools. Proposals were made to increase that force by 25 to 50 officers, but that was not included in this year's $647 million school budget.

The budget does add $1.7 million for school safety programs, with much of that money going to create six "pre-suspension" centers that are designed to teach disruptive students problem-solving and coping skills before returning them to regular classes. But the pre-suspension centers aren't specifically designed to deal with violent children and there are questions concerning how effective they will be.

A city grand jury has issued a report showing school violence increased each of the four years prior to the last school year. Assaults with a deadly weapon rose 82 percent during that period; robberies, 46 percent, and possession of a deadly weapon, 121 percent.

The grand jury correctly notes that public school violence "merely exemplifies the pervasiveness of violence today's children experience or perpetrate." The panel then calls for additional comprehensive, school-based prevention and early intervention measures for violent children and their families. Targeting the families of violent children is a good idea. The problems that make them violent can usually be found in the home.

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