A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Academic, Other

School Safety

Two days after the mass killing of 17 teachers and students in Parkland, Florida, Delegate Christian Miele held a town hall meeting in the Perry Hall High School cafeteria.  During the two hour town hall, Delegate Miele listened to parents, students, teachers, and community members.  In addition, Miele shared six different bills proposed in the Maryland General Assembly which he hopes will be passed before the end of the legislature session in March.  In addition to the proposed bills, many people shared their views, concerns, and suggestions with regards to school safety.

The first bill discussed was House Bill 1600, the Baltimore County Anti-Bullying Task Force. This task force would be comprised of people from everywhere ranging from the superintendent, to an SRO, to two representatives from the PTSA of BCPS. The task force would be assigned to compile data on bullying and cyber-bullying, and potentially to implement county-wide punishments.

The second bill, House Bill 1474, seeks to revoke the driver’s license of any individual who brings a firearm or weapon onto school property.   During the discussion of this bill, many people seemed concerned about the vague description of the word “weapon.”  Other bills include fines for individuals who falsify documents related to residency.

Miele also took some time to respond to questions as a post-town hall response.  All of the questions were answered.  In recent weeks, many people have been attempting to determine how to best protect students and teachers, in both proactive and reactive methods.  On national news and social media, individuals have blamed everything from bullying to guns to a lack of police presence on school property.

“I believe that the community has every right to be frustrated with the Board of Education, as well BCPS leadership, for failing to adopt and enforce a more effective policy to address bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation. Parents are also frustrated by the lack of an adequate response to the reports of bullying,” said Miele.

Many believe a lack of suspensions and involvement from teachers and administrators in some schools is due to the size of the school.  During the meeting, Miele discussed the opening of the new northeast middle school, which is supposed to alleviate overcrowding at Perry Hall Middle School.  However, rumors are that Golden Ring Middle is scheduled to close in 2021, dumping those 691 students into the new middle school, which means the new middle school may only open approximately 750 seats.   A new northeast high school has been discussed for nearly twenty years.

“I am pleased to report that three new schools will be constructed over the next three years (two new elementary schools and a new middle school). That said, a new high school is also sorely needed, and this is something I hope the next county executive prioritizes in his/her first budget. I fully support the construction of a new high school to alleviate the overcrowding,” said Miele.  “The School Board has not communicated its plan with my office as to how the new middle school (and potential closing of Golden Ring Middle) would solve the long-term issue of school overcrowding. I have real concerns about closing any schools at a time when our schools are historically overcrowded.”

Whether or not these concerns will be addressed is something to watch over these next few months as the Maryland legislative session draws to a close. The school board is certainly getting heat from parents who are concerned and fearful for young people and their safety.   President Trump even suggested teachers may need to be armed in order to protect students.    Christian Miele has other thoughts.

“Training on self-defense is no doubt important.  However, I think this question would best (be) answered by teachers and law enforcement authorities,” said Miele.

While Delegate Miele’s meeting provided a lot of information and proposed bills, school safety is certainly an ongoing conversation.