County unveils school anti-violence plan Security coordinator, regulations part of effort

October 15, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

County school officials, law enforcement authorities and social services providers unveiled an initiative yesterday to address acts and threats of violence in Carroll schools.

Key components of the effort include hiring the school system's first security coordinator and new regulations to deal with students who make serious threats of violence.

Capt. Lawrence E. Faries, a 28-year veteran of the Maryland State Police, will begin his job as security coordinator for county schools Tuesday.

He will develop behavioral programs, act as a consultant and provide investigative assistance to principals dealing with violent acts in schools.

"I'm going to come in slow and sit down and find out what their expectations are," said Faries, 51, a 26-year county resident. "I have a feel for what's going on in the county."

The regulations addressing threats of violence by students will go into effect Jan. 19, the first day of the new semester. Parents will be notified of the regulations and a five-member violence prevention team will be trained at each school to respond to acts of violence.

In addition to specific procedures for suspensions and expulsions, the regulations include mandatory assessments of students by Carroll County Youth Service Bureau Inc. in certain cases.

"One thing to remember about students who are threatening others is that they are feeling pretty unsafe themselves," said Kathleen Burrows, director of the bureau.

As part of the school system's initiative, the county state's attorney's office has set up a violence tips hot line to handle questions and concerns from school community. All students will receive a card with the hot line number: 410-386-2045.

Superintendent William H. Hyde said the violence prevention program sends a message to students:

"We believe in you and we have high expectations of you. If you move into an area of behavior that is considered violent we'll reach out and try to help you, but if you persist we won't tolerate it and there will be consequences."

A school-based committee -- headed by Edwin Davis, director of pupil services for county schools -- began work in April to develop a violence prevention program. The project is partly a response to fatal shootings at schools across the country this year.

No shooting incidents have occurred in Carroll schools, but other instances of violence occurred during the 1997-1998 school year.

School officials report 290 suspensions for physical attacks against other students, and 40 suspensions for physical attacks against staff. Fifty-one students were suspended for making verbal threats to other students, and 72 were suspended for making verbal threats to staff.

Westminster High School senior Stephanie McFeeley, president of the Carroll County Student Government Association, said violence was not a big problem at her school. However, she supports the new violence prevention program.

"If they don't prepare for something now, the aftermath of any tragedy will be far worse," she said.

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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