County school was fighting a reputation for violence

Data indicate police were frequently called to Randallstown High

Randallstown School Shooting

May 08, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

When asked last month about the biggest challenges facing Randallstown High School, William Thomas cited a curriculum that he doesn't find sufficiently challenging and students who don't seem to care about their grades.

He said nothing about school violence.

Yesterday, Thomas was one of four Randallstown students shot outside the school after a charity basketball game. He was in critical condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, according to a spokeswoman.

The Sun interviewed Thomas and several other students in his African-American history class last month about the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education to desegregate American schools. A half-century later, Randallstown High is more than 95 percent black.

"It's not that Randallstown is a bad school," said Thomas, who moved two years ago from a majority-white high school in the Atlanta area. "It's just that the kids don't apply themselves as they should and as kids at predominantly white schools apply themselves."

Thomas, a senior with plans to study electrical engineering in college, added, "The students make it a bad school because they don't want to strive to do better."

Randallstown is a stronghold of Baltimore County's black middle class. Many families have moved there from Baltimore to get a better education for their children. Yet the school is troubled by high teacher turnover and low student performance.

It is also a school trying to overcome a reputation for violence. In the first half of the previous school year, the most recent period for which data are available, Randallstown High had called police to the building 30 times - more than any other Baltimore County high school. Many students interviewed said the school had calmed down significantly this year.

A new principal, Thomas Evans, has been trying to turn the school culture around. He has been working extensively on teacher training. He has plans to implement a new schedule with longer class periods and a system of "academies."

Evans, too, has said it is academic rigor - not violence - that is the school's greatest challenge. He said the school has had only a handful of significant fights this year.

"I would like to reassure parents that this is not typical of Randallstown High School or even typical of the Randallstown community," Evans said last night. "This was a freak incident. The kids are safe at our school. ... It's the world that's not safe."

Randallstown High

4000 Offutt Road, Randallstown, Md. 21133

Opened in 1969

Teachers: 92.5

Students: 1,500

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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