School violence: 'Thugs' and unclear rules


November 19, 1995

I read with interest the two articles in The Sun on Nov. 5 entitled, "Some advocating guards at Meade Senior High" and "Violent students go unpunished, teachers say."

My son attends Meade Senior High. So far this school year he has been physically assaulted twice (by students he did not know), has had two sets of gym clothes stolen ($15 initial loss) and has had a $5 lock smashed off his gym locker by the thieves who robbed him. At this rate, we anticipate the school year will cost us about $200 in stolen tangibles, and about two weeks of lost leave for my husband and myself. All this to correct a situation that should not exist in the first place.

Add to that the mental strain on my son of attending a school where he feels he has to walk with his back to a wall and avoid all eye contact in hopes that he doesn't agitate some stranger. This does not add up to a secure learning environment.

The first attack took place in a hallway outside the locker bay. Someone spit on my son from behind and when he turned around to see who, an angry stranger struck him violently in the back of the head. No other words were exchanged. The school principal, George Kispert, told him that without witnesses, it would be largely useless to identify the attacker because it would just be my son's word against that of the attacker.

We let it drop, thankful that he wasn't injured any more seriously than he was. Do you realize how pathetic that last statement sounds to me -- "Thankful that he wasn't injured more seriously" -- when he shouldn't have been injured at all in a normally $H supervised school day?

On Oct. 31, he was again assaulted, this time getting off the school bus. He had an attack of stomach flu and when he vomited in the parking lot, one of his classmates took advantage of it to kick him twice, violently, in the groin. It took my husband several personal visits to the school and insistence to the point of shouting to pressure the school administrators into even identifying the attacker two days later.

Our perception is that if we had not been insisted to the point of rudeness concerning this second attack that even the minor discipline dispensed would not have been pursued. It seemed to us that the school administrators would have been perfectly content to just ignore the situation.

If either of these two situations had occurred at my workplace, I would have had the attacker arrested by the police, brought up on charges and probably taken to court for damages. Yet when my son is attacked twice at his "workplace," it is just brushed off. Why?

My son has been raised not to hit people. He would prefer not to have to attend a school where he has to avoid eye contact to avoid getting beaten by out-of-control thugs. What do we tell him, "Go to school and take your chances, because the adults around you clearly are incapable of keeping you safe"?

Clearly the violence at this school is already out of hand and the school year is only two months old. Evidently, the Meade High administration is already overwhelmed. We believe that guards to monitor the halls is an excellent first step. Strengthening the staff of counselors and administrators is also a necessary second step. Standardizing the code of discipline across Anne Arundel County might help focus attention on the problem, but I feel that enforcement is currently a more immediate problem than establishing standards.

In-school communications also need to be enhanced. The school nurse evidently did not tell the vice principal that my son had been kicked, the teacher in charge of the locker bay had not told the vice principal that my son's locker had been broken into twice or that he had been robbed. Word is not even not being carried through all levels of the Meade administration concerning these violent episodes. If simple communications like this are being neglected, it indicates that the staff is already overwhelmed in trying to deal with the levels of violence at this school.

To her credit, once the vice principal involved decided to pursue the matter, she did so energetically until the attacker was identified and disciplined. Granted, the presence of guards in the halls of a school is a less then desirable situation. But the alternative of violence running unchecked in an educational facility is even less desirable than that. Schools must be safe houses.

Jan Bowman


I wholeheartedly agree with the teachers regarding an article in The Sun Nov. 5 entitled "Violent students go unpunished, teachers say." This article addressed the new "assault policy" and stated, "There is no consistency. It's up to the discretion of the principals. " and that there should be "a code of conduct with clear definitions and consequences."

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