Police raising presence for prom season


Education Beat

News from Howard County schools and colleges

April 17, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

THE HOWARD County Police Department is stepping up enforcement efforts as students embark on traditional end-of-school activities, including proms, Senior Week and graduation parties.

Among them is an outreach campaign to motel and hotel owners, asking them to be "mindful that on some occasions, students will attempt to rent rooms for the purpose of underage drinking and other illegal activity," according to a letter written by Police Chief G. Wayne Livesay.

The police chief also asks owners to report suspicious activity.

"As you may well know, every prom season brings with it the potential to lose a young person in an alcohol or drug-related crash," Livesay wrote. "By working together in this initiative, we can prevent such a senseless tragedy from occurring."

State hotel and motel owners and managers are well aware of such a practice, said Mary Jo McCulloch, president of the Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association, which represents 230 hotels, or 50 percent of rooms available in the state.

"None of the hotel owners want to have this kind of situation," McCulloch said. "Obviously, you have other guests in the hotel, and if their peace is disturbed by such a situation, that's not good for us."

Until three years ago, McCulloch said, hotel and motel owners were required to rent rooms to anyone who could pay, including people younger than 18.

"It got to be a huge problem around prom time and also in Ocean City," she said.

But the association lobbied state legislators to pass a law allowing motel and hotel proprietors to refuse rental to anyone younger than 18 without a parent's signature or a guarantee that a parent would pay for any damage, including asking for a security deposit, McCulloch said.

"We could also refuse to rent to anyone who's noticeably belligerent, drunk, under the influence of drugs or whatever," she said. "If there [are] illegal activities going on, the innkeeper can evict or call the police."

The Howard County Police Department also plans to increase police presence on the roads during proms and after-prom parties sponsored by parent-teacher groups.

School keeps name

Cedar Lane School, which serves severely disabled students ages 3 to 21, will keep its name when it gets a new building adjacent to Lime Kiln Middle School in Fulton.

The Board of Education unanimously voted in favor of the Columbia school's name at its meeting Thursday.

Parents and school administrators supported keeping the name because of its brand recognition not just in Howard but also across the country.

The new school, scheduled to open in August, will be connected to Lime Kiln Middle, allowing students of all abilities to interact.

Two measures fail

Two legislative proposal supported by the Howard County Board of Education failed in the General Assembly, which wrapped up its session Monday.

The Howard board had initiated a statewide bill that would have given local school boards more power in the hiring and firing of superintendents. The House of Delegates' Ways and Means Committee gave the legislation an unfavorable recommendation.

After being frustrated last year in its attempt to get rid of former Superintendent John R. O'Rourke with five months remaining in his contract, the Howard school board had wanted authority to fire a superintendent in the final year of a contract, only after the board decides not to renew his or her contract.

Under Maryland law, only the state superintendent has the authority to remove a school system chief, and only if the official engages in "immorality, misconduct in office, insubordination, incompetency, or willful neglect of duty."

Courtney Watson, the school board chairman, said members will discuss the issue again and consider whether to propose the legislation as a local bill next year, meaning it would apply only to the Howard County school board.

If approved, a second proposal would have allowed the Howard school board to investigate problems or disputes involving staff members reporting directly to the superintendent. But it, too, garnered little support in the House Ways and Means Committee.

The legislation, proposed by Republican Del. Warren E. Miller, was a response to a grade-changing controversy involving two top staff members under O'Rourke. The former superintendent had hired an outside investigator to look into the matter.

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