Taking on school violence Baltimore County: Superintendent Marchione wisely goes beyond tough disciplinary policies.

July 09, 1998

THE LESSON we should have learned from recent school shootings across the country is that though these tragedies are anomalies, we cannot take our own schools' safety for granted.

Today, for reasons no one fully understands but which probably are rooted in our culture's glorification of violence, access to firearms and the complexities of family life, some young people are moved to hurt and even kill others.

Schools need to be alert to signs of trouble and prepared to deal with violence.

It's good to see Baltimore County Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione taking an active role.

Baltimore County's 160 schools have, for the most part, been safe. Still, as in many jurisdictions, signs portend disaster. Witness the Hereford Middle student who brought a semiautomatic handgun and eight bullets to school. Many systems have toughened punishments for violent or potentially violent behavior, but Dr. Marchione wants to take a longer view.

He has appointed a panel of educators, parents, police, social services workers and elected leaders to review policies concerning acts and threats of violence. He has framed their mission with a series of specific, relevant questions.

He wants to know whether policies are adequate to deal with violent situations and whether principals are sufficiently prepared to deal with such crises. He wants to know if and how teachers and other school staff members can spot violence-prone students and intervene.

He asks about the feasibility of a "critical incident team" to respond instantly to emergencies and for ideas about how parents and the community can help contribute to safe schools.

Other jurisdictions would be wise to take a focused, comprehensive look at the issue of school violence. No one can guarantee that what happened elsewhere will not happen here, but pre-emptive steps such as the ones Baltimore County is pursuing will reduce the risk as much as anyone can reasonably expect.

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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