Leopold: Arundel is working to stop gangs in schools

March 08, 2010

Your editorial, "Gang Prevention" (Mar. 5), correctly noted the need for a holistic approach to helping youth avoid falling into the trap of gang activity. Since taking office, my administration has secured County Council budgetary approval to take such an approach by working collaboratively with Anne Arundel Community College to create a new parenting program within the College Parenting Center. This program offers parents of middle school children free courses about the development of adolescents. Parents will not only receive the latest research from experts in the field but more importantly will leave with practical parenting strategies to help their children through the turbulent teen years, including ways to identify warning signs of gang activity.

My administration has also increased funding for student resource officers, creating a network of specially trained police officers in middle and high schools to increase school security and provide a vital communication link between law enforcement and educational staff.

Your editorial also supported an approach reflected in legislation I proposed in this year's General Assembly session to increase the types of offenses that law enforcement reports to school officials and to broaden that notification to include principals of the school attended by the offending student. It is vital that this information be made directly available to school officials on site so that appropriate remedial action can be taken, including utilizing the student resource officer to assist in a comprehensive response to the student's illegal conduct.

It is sad that it took the death of Christopher Jones to raise awareness of gang activities in suburban areas. Elected officials, school authorities and law enforcement must now ensure that they work together to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

John R. Leopold, Annapolis

The writer is Anne Arundel county executive.

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