When parents patrol school hallways MOST volunteers keep students moving and trouble at bay

'There are fewer problems'

At Southern Middle, pupils know their moms are watching

December 02, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A gaggle of teen-age girls stops in a hallway at Southern Middle School to admire a manicure. A bunch of boys tussles and hollers.

But not for long as Terry Smith intervenes. "Move along, keep going," she says. "Don't yell. Slow down."

The students simmer down and climb the staircase, but not because Smith is a teacher. She is a bus driver, the mother of a sixth-grader and among 108 volunteers in the school's MOST program -- Monitoring Our School Together.

In August, Southern Middle became the first Anne Arundel County school to start the program, which stations adults in the hallways to prevent trouble and keep 970 students moving.

Parents, grandparents and others from the rural community perch in up to 10 locations, mostly blind stairwells where misbehavior could go undetected.

During the five-minute class changes, they direct traffic and stop adolescents from going up the down staircase. When classes are in session they help teachers and check students' hall passes.

The premise is that adolescents straighten up and fly right when they know they are being watched. It works, says Principal Deborah Montgomery.

"It has done a great deal toward making our hallways more manageable," she says. "There are fewer problems."

Teachers, parents and students agree.

"Just by being there, things that would be attempted are not attempted. They won't jump the banister if they think someone is looking," says Terry Ward, a parent and MOST chairman.

Ronald D. Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, Calif., says the idea for parent monitors goes back more than a decade, and is gaining in popularity nationally and in Anne Arundel.

Crofton Middle School is to turn an informal hallway helpers program into a lunchtime-only version of MOST today, says Cheryl M. Malone, assistant principal.

Old Mill Middle South started a similar program last year, mostly during lunch, and Corkran Middle in Glen Burnie is considering one.

"The proximity of a responsible adult is the most effective crime prevention strategy. It is the most significant factor in affecting school safety," Stephens says.

Last year, eight students were expelled from Southern Middle and there were 15 reports of serious incidents, says Huntley J. Cross, special assistant for student discipline.

So far this year, he has had no reports from the Lothian school, and Cross says he believes the additional adults are partly responsible for the improvement.

"If you see somebody's mother, and you know them, they're going to go back and tell your mother. So you have to be extra good if you know them," says seventh-grader Bryant Hall.

Students say they are less inclined to fool around as they walk shoulder to shoulder down narrow hallways. And while there's still plenty of gabbing and jabbing, the corridors are tamer.

Some volunteers are reluctant to get a child in trouble, others are more assertive. Most often, just their presence is enough.

On a recent morning, two boys accidentally bumped, turned and squared off. When they saw Ramon McDonald, they trotted off to class.

McDonald doubts that they know he is the pastor at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Lothian or the parent of an eighth-grader or a girls basketball coach. They saw his MOST button.

"Think about the actual mechanics of a fight," says Georgiana Maszczenski, volunteer coordinator for county schools. "You have to stop, you have to have a crowd gathering, then you can have at it. It's a little hard to have a confrontation when everyone is moving."

L Students say they have adjusted to parents in the corridors.

Adults are coping with this quirk: While it is not cool to run over and hug your mother -- a small wave is recognition enough -- it is socially acceptable to hug someone else's.

Pub Date: 12/02/96

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