Mailing meant to calm kids, parents

School board letter to inform families of security measures

April 28, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Hoping to calm the nerves of many Carroll County parents and students, the board of education will send a letter to parents this week outlining school security issues, said Lawrence E. Faries, school security coordinator.

The letter is the latest attempt to quell tensions stemming from last week's shootings at a public high school in Littleton, Colo.

Faries said yesterday that the letter will be mailed to principals today and to parents by week's end. The letter will detail "all we have done to date for security," he said.

"We are trying to convince the parents that these kids are as safe as they can be," Faries said. "We are doing everything humanly possible to make sure their schools are safe."

The corridors at some Carroll schools have been tense since the shootings by two teen-age students at Columbine High School in the Denver suburb.

A bomb scare Friday at North Carroll High School prompted the evacuation of students for hours before officials reopened the school.

Yesterday, administrators at Liberty High School spent hours on rumor control, calming fears of violence at the Eldersburg campus on the second day of what Principal Randy Clark called a "hectic" week. He declined to elaborate.

Liberty administrators have enlisted the aid of the Maryland State Police Criminal Intelligence Division and school board security officials. Clark declined to provide specifics about the help.

"We are walking a tightrope as rumors escalate and then de-escalate," Clark said. "It has totally consumed my time. But I'm taking the approach that if it were my children in this school, I'd want someone doing everything possible to ensure their safety."

Clark said rumors among the school's 1,528 students were unfounded but required hours of painstaking investigation by four Liberty administrators.

"We are asking students not to repeat things if they haven't heard it firsthand," he said, adding that he reaffirms that message daily over the loudspeaker. "At times, the ripples of rumors turn into waves. I want parents to know we're taking everything seriously and taking proactive steps to secure the building," Clark said.

Lt. Terry L. Katz, commander of the state police Westminster barracks, has ordered troopers on patrol to stop at each county high school before and after classes each day, said Sgt. J. W. Long, a state police spokesman.

Long said the school visits were implemented a few days ago after the Colorado shootings.

"The troopers are on alert and will continue to be highly visible at schools," he said. "Our detail includes the five high schools, but troopers won't ignore the elementary and middle schools."

Before the shootings in Littleton, Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning ordered deputies on patrol to check on all elementary, middle and high schools daily, said Lt. Charles Paulsen, who heads the patrol unit.

"The deputies are aware of the situation in Colorado and, on their own initiative, have begun checking schools more frequently, even during the night," Paulsen said.

Angie Lee, mother of a Liberty sophomore, said she plans to demand at the board's meeting next month that the school board hire security guards to patrol certain schools.

"The principals check for security, but they have other jobs to do," Lee said.

Liberty and South Carroll high schools will be added to the Spotlight on Schools program next year, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend announced Monday. The program's purpose is to improve school safety by assigning probation officers to monitor students on probation and try to keep others from getting into trouble.

This week's rumors mark the second time in a year that tension has gripped Liberty High School.

In May, days after a Springfield, Ore., teen-ager opened fire in a school lunchroom, killing two and wounding 24, a 14-year-old Liberty student pointed a loaded gun at another teen-ager off school property.

News reports about that incident, aired last week after the Colorado shooting, alarmed many Liberty parents, school officials said.

"This is my second year as principal, and it's the worst I've ever seen," Clark said, adding that many faculty members are also nervous. "More than anything, I'd like to be beyond this and get back to what education is all about. It's not a good situation when you have students come into the building and not feel safe."

Sun staff writer Mike Farabaugh contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/28/99

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