One officer put in each high school

Anti-violence effort also opens phone line for anonymous tips

U.S. funds back program

Police seen as mentors, role models for teens, mediators in disputes

November 24, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

In an effort to prevent school violence, Howard County police and school officials have placed an officer in each high school and opened a phone line for anonymous tips on school violence.

County Executive James N. Robey, who announced the measures during a news conference at Atholton High School yesterday, said violence in schools across the country has prompted county leaders to take preventive measures.

"Columbine, for example," Robey said, noting the school shootings last spring in Colorado. "If anyone said that was going to happen in that school, no one would have believed it."

The School Resource Officer Program is being paid for with a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Days after the Columbine shooting, President Clinton awarded $70 million in grant money to place more than 600 police officers in schools across the country. The Baltimore County police, the Berlin Police Department and the Wicomico County Sheriff's Department also received grant money.

Before, two police officers split their time among Howard County's 10 high schools and one alternative school.

The school-based officers were chosen for their desire to work with adolescents in a school setting and are experienced. Some graduated from county high schools.

Their job will be to identify potential problems, mentor students, work with school staff members and build relationships with parents, said Police Chief Wayne Livesay.

"This is not a program to put security guards in each school," he said. "These officers will serve as role models, and that is very crucial. I view this as part of Howard County's dedication to community policing."

Sgt. Morris Carroll, who heads the county School Resource Officer Program, said the officers have been trained to identify and handle problems in high schools. They attended a weeklong training session during which they were taught how to communicate with adolescents and how to spot those in trouble.

"Those situations where there is bullying going on, the officer will intervene," Carroll said. "And not only help those that are being bullied, but also those that are doing the bullying, because they probably have problems of their own."

Robey said the county will assume the costs when the three-year grant expires.

To report concerns about school violence, call 410-313-3250.

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