School board OKs seeking state grants Funds aid at-risk teens, expand school's alternative education

'Neglected children'

Wilde Lake Middle wants more computers, bigger parental role

November 25, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Howard County school board members voted last night to seek two grants to help students who are at-risk for child abuse, teen pregnancy and/or suicide, and to expand an alternative education program at Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia.

One grant application seeks $13,235 from the Maryland Department of Education to fund "Kids At Risk," a program for academically vulnerable children, particularly those who may be suicidal, abused or neglected at home or at-risk for pregnancy.

The school system would join with the county Department of Health and the Coalition for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention to provide outreach programs such as psychology workshops to teach decision-making and problem-solving to teen parents and for workshops on self-image and peer pressure for middle school girls.

"Abused and neglected children are at an increased risk for poor school performance such as low grades and frequent grade repetition, with neglected children at the greatest risk," the grant application states. "Likewise, the number of teens engaging in high-risk behaviors that threaten their health and safety suggest increased levels of hopelessness, anger and grief in our student population."

The grant application says that in 1993, Howard County had low rates of investigations for child abuse and neglect, about three per 1,000 children. These are the latest figures available.

However, rates of arrests for juvenile violent crime increased, and Howard County schools ranked seventh in the state for violence-related suspensions during the 1994-1995 school year, according to the grant application.

At Wilde Lake Middle School, administrators are seeking a $9,930 grant from the state Department of Education to improve the in-school alternative education program.

The funds would be used to buy computers and software for students; develop and conduct workshops to teach parents how to take more active roles in the school; to pay for staff development, and to provide activities such as field trips and guest speakers for students.

Also at last night's board meeting:

Board members heard a report from the school system's academic support office, which helps students who are struggling academically.

Among the office's initiatives is the Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP), which provides academic mentors to children in elementary, middle and high schools; sponsors summer programs for low-income children, and operates after-school community learning centers.

Marion Miller, principal of Running Brook Elementary School in Columbia, noted that the school's BSAP mentor often stays long past her appointed time to monitor and work with students.

Miller said the mentor does everything from greeting the children in the morning to ushering them to breakfast to making sure they did their homework.

"She's really sort of their mom away from home," Miller said. "She's also a critical link to the parents. She really has been quite invaluable."

Wilde Lake High has created its own in-house academic support system, a collection of 13 groups such as a "children of separation and divorce" group, a reading program and the Princesses of Imani and Nia, a club for African-American girls.

"Those 13 groups have made a difference at Wilde Lake," said Principal Roger Plunkett.

Board members also approved a special exception allowing next year's ninth-graders in western Howard -- now in a district to attend River Hill High School -- to enroll at Glenelg High School. The board approved the same exception this year for the 1998-1999 freshman class because future redistricting plans would force them to switch high schools before they would graduate.

"In the long-range plan, that area, in all likelihood would be assigned to Glenelg," said Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent of planning and support services. "It makes sense to do it now."

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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