This week marks the end of the Baltimore County Public Schools 2016-17 school year. We are so proud of our local high school graduates, the millions of dollars in scholarships they have earned, as well as their many academic, athletic, and humanitarian achievements. We are equally proud of the students throughout the BCPS system who contribute positively to their school community.
As the elected leaders of Dundalk, Essex, Rosedale, and Edgemere, we must, however, express our deep concerns regarding school safety, student behavior, and discipline. Since we took office in 2014, there have been many incidents throughout our district – in elementary, middle, and high schools – that include criminal violence, bullying, and other forms of harassment that have no place in our schools. That trend continued to the end of this school year, with numerous reports and complaints from parents, leaving us troubled by the seeming lack of consistency, consequences, and sound disciplinary policy.
No child should be fearful of attending school or have the behavior of others affect their learning environment and experience. When a child misbehaves, there should be quick, decisive, and consistent discipline. In our many discussions with teachers and parents, we are learning that the opposite is the case. What exactly are we teaching our children when there are little to no consequences of their actions? Current policy is setting children up for major failure as they mature into adulthood believing that society will look the other way when they do wrong. We are strongly advocating to both the incoming Interim Superintendent, and the Board of Education for a change in policy and practices.
Most immediately, the Board should conduct a public hearing as soon as possible so parents can be heard. The Board needs to hear what we as elected representatives are hearing. This discussion should continue throughout the summer so schools can plan now in order to address students and parents when doors re-open in the Fall. A letter requesting such a public hearing has been sent to the Board.
Secondly, we encourage our schools’ leadership to find new ways to engage parents and guardians. The success of a school is directly proportional to parental involvement. Parents and guardians should understand the expectations of them and their children, and also know that bad behavior which disrupts or jeopardizes the safety of others, will be met with serious consequences.
For all of the greatness and promise we see in our youth, we strongly believe our school system is in need of a discipline policy overhaul and a better enforcement model. What has been described to us as “sweeping it under the rug so the numbers look better” is not sound policy, especially when the safety of both students and faculty is clearly at risk.
As always, please contact us to weigh in on this or any other issue.
Councilman Todd K. Crandell
State Senator Johnny Ray Salling
State Delegate Bob Long
State Delegate Ric Metzgar
State Delegate Robin Grammer