The Howard County school system will continue to allow administrators to offer students monetary rewards in exchange for information in connection with "serious offenses," according to an assistant superintendent.
School officials made the decision this week in response to concerns raised by parents and students after a Columbia high school principal offered students a $30 reward in exchange for names of participants involved in a December food fight.
"We want to be able to use it, but use it judiciously," said Linda Wise, the county's assistant superintendent for school administration. "Everybody felt that they should have that as an option when necessary."
No reward money was paid to Wilde Lake High School students after the offer by Principal Restia Whitaker, but some students were outraged by the enticement. At that time, county school officials defended Whitaker, saying that the practice had been used by other principals.
The county school system does not have a written policy on the practice of offering monetary rewards, according to spokeswoman Patti Caplan.
The initial parameters established this week further support Whitaker's actions, according to Wise.
"[The food fight] was jeopardizing the safety of the students," she said.
Destruction of property, theft, hate-bias incidents or "anything that would jeopardize the health, safety or welfare of the student, staff or school" have been mentioned as incidents that warrant rewards, Wise said.
In coming weeks, administrators will set firmer parameters for when the rewards are acceptable, Wise said.
"We do feel that it can be a useful tool," she said.
john-john.williams @ baltsun.com