Children list fighting as biggest school problem Students, officials attend conference on safety

September 26, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Students sat alongside teachers and principals yesterday to discuss issues ranging from behavior and discipline to sexual harassment at the state's first conference on school safety.

Young people attending the program at the Baltimore Convention Center cited fighting more than any other problem. They seemed to feel that their own schools were generally safe, but were unsure that others around Maryland were as secure.

"Safety is not necessarily a problem at our school," said Shanda Coley, a senior at Harford Technical High School in Bel Air. "We really don't have that many safety concerns, but elsewhere you hear about gangs and not being able to walk on one hallway."

Students were a minority among 700 participants -- including educators and state officials -- at the conference, entitled "Safe Schools, A Shared Responsibility." The program continues today.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend -- who are campaigning for re-election, and being praised in an AFL-CIO television ad for efforts to make schools safe -- attended the conference, along with the state and federal education secretaries, and Townsend's office was among the sponsors.

They proposed a toll-free school gun safety hot line through which students could anonymously report guns and other weapons in schools.

The governor also urged businesses to contribute to a new After-School Corporate Challenge fund to support activities to occupy students in the afternoon and early evening, when, studies have shown, they are most likely to be unsupervised and get into trouble.

"Government cannot do this alone. We must all take responsibility for keeping children safe," Glendening said.

The students took part with adults in discussions of harassment, discipline, substance abuse, truancy and the design of buildings to promote safety.

But fighting was the biggest problem they mentioned.

"People are fighting a lot. They just fight over the stupid stuff," said Kevin Dantzler, an eighth-grader at Baltimore's Hamilton Middle School.

At Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary, also in the city, fifth-grader Christian King said he doesn't feel safe sometimes on the playground because of fighting, but that the altercations "rarely" move inside.

Pub Date: 9/26/98

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