Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham urged Annapolis community leaders last night to report all rumors of possible school violence to avoid situations -- like Monday -- in which students skip classes for fear of bombings or shootings.
In a speech on violence in schools at an Annapolis neighborhood watch meeting, Parham asked for "grass-roots" help in making county schools safe and minimizing disruption to classes. About 30 percent of the state's students stayed home Monday because of rumors of threats to schools. At Glen Burnie High School, more than half the student body failed to show up.
Monday "was all about rumors," Parham said at Annapolis Police Department headquarters, where about 40 block captains and residents gathered. "Can you see the power of rumors? When you hear a rumor, you contact us and you let us know what you're hearing. Tell us what those rumors are, what are you hearing. And if you know it's unfounded, don't spread it."
Parham also suggested setting up a network linking the school system to contacts in each neighborhood.
Parham said block captains can help schools by substitute teaching or volunteering in schools to provide adult presence. Children who recognize community leaders at school will be more likely to listen to them.
Some members of the audience asked pointed questions.
Donald Klingenberger, a block captain in the Presidents Hill community, asked why security seems lax at some county schools.
"I've walked into my daughter's school, walked all around the school and no [one] has challenged me," he said. "We're first-year parents in the school district and no one knows me."
In some county schools, Parham said, visitors are allowed into only one entrance during the day and have to ring a doorbell to get in, a practice that she acknowledged "hasn't been standardized."
Alderman Herbert H. McMillan, a Ward 5 Republican and block captain in the Hunt Meadow community, asked Parham if she had specific goals to account for the large sums of money County Executive Janet S. Owens has pledged to allocate to the school system.
The budget that Owens presented last week proposed to raise education spending by $29.3 million and pledges $40 million for repairs at old school buildings.
McMillan asked how Parham was going to "measure" whether she had spent the money wisely.
Parham said she would work on decreasing the dropout rate, raising reading levels and MSPAP scores and continue school renovations.
"My goal is to [raise standards] to the position of Howard County and Montgomery County," Parham said. "We can be better."
Pub Date: 5/12/99