Keeping schools safe Talbot County has taken a very...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

April 28, 2001

Keeping schools safe

Talbot County has taken a very proactive stance toward the violence in our nation's schools.

I am a Juvenile Probation Officer who for three years has worked in local schools, monitoring youths on probation and assisting with at-risk youths. I have also been involved in the development of innovative approaches and programs to assist our children.

The unique "Spotlight on Schools" program now has a probation officer in both county middle and high schools. Other school-based programs include CheckMate, an alternative suspension program, and the Safe Schools grant has placed mental health professionals in all our schools.

Recently, the Talbot County Board of Education was awarded a grant that helped place "family liaison workers" in schools, who work every day with families and youths having problems that often carry over into the school day.

Roundtable discussions with students about their concerns over school policy, safety and other concerns have also helped make the Talbot County Public Schools a model for other districts.

Anger-management groups continue to provide students support and encouragement from their peers as well as from the school community at large.

And ongoing training for the faculty and staff in school violence -- its triggers, profiles, and warning signs -- is just one of the ways administrators are taking a hands-on approach. An open-door policy remains in place to help administrators and security staff address students' safety and needs.

Zero-tolerance policies for harassment, threats and other acts of violence show the school system does not and will not tolerate any conduct that is not conducive to a constructive learning environment. Intake procedures conducted at school with representatives from the Department of Juvenile Justice and mental health professionals allow students to receive the services they need in a timely manner.

Is there more that can be done? Without a doubt. Just as education is an ongoing process, so is the development and implementation of worthy programs that ensure and protect the safety of our youths.

Cory Fink, Easton

The basic problem was voiced a few decades ago when "Pogo" said something like, "We have met the enemy and they are us." The irresponsibility of parents in raising kids today is the main cause of violence in the schools.

If we don't want violence, drugs, killing and brutality in our living rooms day and night, as well as our schools, we must spend more time and effort to explain morality and the Ten Commandments.

There was no sex on the tube back some years ago, and if you wanted nudity you had to consult "National Geographic."

Now sex is commonplace in prime time, while magazines and the Internet are an endless source of pornography under the guise of freedom to do whatever we want -- a misguided idea benefiting only the corrupt.

Every student has the potential to be violent, just as nonconformists do. Unfortunately, we don't relate to our kids concerning the horrendous paths they may follow. It is no wonder we have violence.

It's not psychiatrists or psychologists that we need; it is parental guidance through the family that has long been forgotten.

The problem begins and ends with the family. Until we are able to communicate with our male offspring, we will continue to witness their uncontrolled violence.

R. D. Bush, Columbia

Reconciliation is key to safety

The Sun's article about the Carroll County schools' policy on threats called this a "model program" for violence prevention ("Threats policy called `model,'" April 15). I'm afraid that as long as the mentality is that violence can only be prevented by punishment, gun-safety education or more police, the violence will continue.

I believe the only true violence prevention is to give children the opportunity to connect with each other across lines of difference and experience healing.

Children want to get along, they want to feel compassion for each other, despite cultural, racial and class differences. My organization has partnered with Frederick High School in Frederick County to develop a model peace initiative program that engages the students as leaders in this process.

Students have created an atmosphere of inclusiveness at school by initiating such activities as cultural awareness days, promoting unity through art projects and creating opportunities for dialogue and conflict resolution.

Their work can teach many adults a lesson in understanding and connection. It addresses issues at the root of school violence instead of just treating symptoms.

The result is certainly a more peaceful and safe environment for the entire school.

Laurie Bezold, Catonsville

The writer is a partner at Fusion Partnerships Inc., a nonprofit organization devoted to building bridges across lines of difference.

Question of the Month:

April's question asked readers whether local schools are adequately addressing the threat of school violence.

Time to abolish unfair estate tax

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