Cooperating agencies make threat policy work As the...

LETTERS

April 29, 2001

Cooperating agencies make threat policy work

As the Carroll County Supervisor for the Department of Juvenile Justice, I've had a good opportunity to observe firsthand the county school system's threat policy in action. It has been tested repeatedly in the weeks since the San Diego incidents, and both students and administration have shown their mettle. Students have come forward to report several of their peers with "hit lists," and school officials have acted decisively to thwart these threats with timely interventions. As described in the article "School threat policy called `model' effort," (April 15) written by Sun reporter Jennifer McMenamin, the Carroll County School System implemented its active partnership with a number of key agencies to identify and counter threat perpetrators before violent acts occurred. The school system's close working relationship with the Department of Juvenile Justice, law enforcement agencies, the State's Attorney's Office and the local mental health provider, the Youth Service Bureau, has provided a model for other jurisdictions in dealing with these crises.

In addition to the school system's zero tolerance policy regarding threatening and violent behavior, I believe a number of general practices contribute to the effectiveness of the program:

The Department of Juvenile Justice has Juvenile Counselors placed in all five high schools as part of its Spotlight on Schools in- itiative. These workers not only supervise youth on court-ordered probation, but also participate in all administrative meetings with school crisis counselors and administrators in reviewing and identifying students whose attendance, behavior, and family problems bring them to official attention. These panels are able to make referrals through the DJJ worker or to the YSB for violence assessments to the local addictions provider, Junction Inc., for drug and alcohol evaluations.

The school system also initiates discussion and treatment planning via the Multi-Disciplinary Committee, an inter-agency group that includes representatives from Juvenile Justice, the school system, the Department of Social Services and local mental health leadership. This panel meets regularly to discuss troubled youth early in their behavioral orbit and develop appropriate interventions.

All agencies work collaboratively to make the school system's threat policy a successful tool in preventing school violence. When the South Carroll High School youth was identified with an alleged hit list, the Maryland State Police, along with Larry Faries, the school system's head of security, intervened immediately and coordinated an action plan that involved the Carroll County States Attorney's Office, juvenile justice representatives and the Juvenile Court Master Peter M. Tabatsko. In this case as well as in several other episodes, the intervention was immediate and the consequences were proportionate to the seriousness of the threat.

The system works in Carroll County because of a unique spirit of cooperation that exists among the involved agencies. Our youth need to learn early on that they belong to a community where their input and participation is valued and that their expectation to be educated in a safe school environment is not only their right but their responsibility.

David J. Tucker

Westminster, Carroll County Juvenile Counselor Supervisor

Projecting enrollment a complicated process

At the Board of Education's last regular monthly meeting, the Facilities Master Plan for 2001-2010 was presented as a report. The plan, which is presented annually, outlines proposed facility projects along with a proposed time frame for facility assessment, planning approvals, construction funding, and occupancy.

One of the determining factors in the development of the Facilities Master Plan is student enrollment projections. Actually, projecting student enrollment is much more complicated than most people realize. One of the major misconceptions is that new housing starts determine enrollment projections. They do play a significant role; however, they are not the only things that cause growth in student enrollment. A combination of factors must be taken into consideration.

The method used to project enrollments statistically establishes a trend by school and by grade. This trend is used to project future enrollments. For example, if an elementary school has 100 students one year, 125 students the next year and 150 students the following year, a trend has been established. Therefore, the assumption can be made that enrollment will increase by 25 students for the following year.

The task of projecting student enrollments is not an exact science. Staff monitor new subdivisions throughout the county, occupancy permits, and birth numbers. In addition, they employ an understanding of the community and the school principal's input to determine the final numbers.

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