Ruppersberger wants police in 24 high schools Executive recommends paying county employees to volunteer in classrooms

December 08, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said yesterday that he not only wants to pay county workers who volunteer in schools, but he also hopes to place police officers in each of the county's 24 high schools.

Ruppersberger, who released details of the volunteer program this week, said in his inaugural address yesterday that he wants to put officers in each of the schools over the next four years, depending on the needs of the schools and staffing levels in each police precinct.

The police initiative would expand a program Ruppersberger started last year with officers at Milford Mill and Pikesville high schools. The two School Resource Officers cost about $50,000 each, teach classes, get to know students and provide security, county and school officials said.

They have stopped fights, prevented crimes and have "become walking symbols of strength, compassion, discipline and safety," Ruppersberger told about 500 people at Towson Center at Towson University yesterday as he was sworn in for a second four-year term.

Last month, a task force appointed by Baltimore County schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione called for increasing the number of county schools with police officers.

The Acts and Threats of Violence Task Force, appointed after fatal school shootings in three states, recently called for a number of safety measures, including placing officers at 30 county middle and high schools by the 2002-2003 school year.

The task force recommended that the school system and the county Police Department share the annual cost of about $50,000 per officer.

Ruppersberger said yesterday that money for the officers would be well spent.

"They tackle behavior problems very early, preventing disruption problems in our schools that often spill over to the surrounding community," he said.

Ruppersberger said yesterday that he hopes to introduce a legislative package early next year to allow the county's 7,500 employees to volunteer in schools on county time.

Volunteers could act as teachers' aides or help with clerical duties.

County officials have said that employees might be allowed to volunteer up to two hours every other week.

Ruppersberger said he hopes the effort would prompt more private sector employers to start similar programs.

"It's going to cost the county money, but I hope that by taking the lead and setting an example, that businesses will pick up the ball and run with it," Ruppersberger said.

Some County Council members said that they would have to see cost figures before backing legislation to pay employees for chores routinely performed by volunteers.

"The concept of encouraging all this cooperation is a great one. But the cost is a major factor, and I'm not going to jump on board with this as long as the cost is a big unknown," said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a Republican who represents Towson.

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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