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Nearly 200 more juvenile citations were given out to students in the 2018-2019 school year compared to the year before, with Meade, North County and Old Mill high schools topping the list of schools where police cited students.

Anne Arundel County police data, obtained by The Capital under the Maryland Public Information Act, showed the number of citations and arrests dropped at Meade in the last school year. But increases at North County, Old Mill and other schools resulted in an overall 20% increase.

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The most common juvenile charges issued by school resource officers were for second-degree assault, with 549 citations, and then affray, defined as a public display of fighting, with 137. In the 2017-2019 school year, 1,183 students between the ages of 7 and 17 were charged.

Officers issued 141 citations at Meade High, down from 183 in the 2017-2018 school year. North County High had 109 and Old Mill had 102.

School resource officers have been added to every high school in the county and many middle schools in the last two years. A police spokeswoman attributed the increased numbers of citations to the presence of more officers.

“We think the main reason is that we added SROs to the middle schools," Sgt. Jacklyn Davis wrote in an email.

“Many crimes that were historically reported/charged at home after school are now being reported and charged in the schools since there is an officer present. Officers aren’t having to report to homes after school to take school-based reports as much.”

Juvenile citations are given out by police and the school system does not have the authority to issue such charges, she said. School administration officials obtained them from police after a story in September reported the numbers from the previous school year countywide. School officials do not track arrests and citations by police.

Deputy Superintendent Monique Jackson, who presented the data to the school board Wednesday during a school safety report, agreed with the explanation for the increased numbers.

“I would hope that our students feel comfortable reporting to the authority figures in the building, who are outside of the school administration,” Jackson said.

Though Anne Arundel County Public Schools and police have separate tracking mechanisms, the school system considers citations as major incidents reported annually to the Maryland State Department of Education. These reports are part of “level of consequence,” a term used in the student handbook to describe when a child commits an offense or violation like possession of alcohol and drugs, arson, assault, bias behavior and bullying.

“We, as a school system, really look at our circle of influence and our circle of influence is our code of conduct — so teaching our students relationship building and then teaching them replacement behavior,” Jackson said.

She gave the example of ninth-graders may act out more often than older students.

Board member Candace Antwine, whose district includes Meade High, asked schools Superintendent George Arlotto for more information on student citations after The Capital first reported the numbers in September. Wednesday, she asked for the police department to share “what is going on and how we can work together."

“We still have pages of citations and arrests. We can influence change if we better understand what is going on,” she said.

Police have said they consider citations and arrests "a last resort” for school resource officers, and the department has installed diversion programs to steer kids away from detention centers.

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School resource officers are sworn officers assigned to work in schools; 31 of them are stationed to form positive relationships with students and protect the community from threats, according to police data. Officers don’t discipline kids but they do have the ability to refer them to the juvenile justice system.

Police also are involved in conflict resolution efforts and programs including teen court, a diversion program by teens for teens.

Recent incidents

Jackson also addressed questions from the board related to recent incidents at school events such as dances and games.

Incidents at county football games this season included disruption over political speech, allegations about racial epithets and one police officer who suffered a concussion at a game. At the Arundel High homecoming dance in September, a student reported she was sexually assaulted and has complained about the school response.

Monday, the County Council urged the school system and the board to review its sexual assault policy. And Tuesday the Caucus of African American Leaders released a letter signed by the state Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon saying that school administrators have the power to remove players or forfeit a game as the result of a “racial epithet.”

Salmon’s agency recently sent a reminder to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports, reminding them of "their responsibility to not accept any disrespectful behavior by coaches, players, and others.”

“Officials are authorized to disqualify any player for using profanity, insulting or vulgar language or gestures,” Salmon wrote.

Board member Melissa Ellis, District 4, asked about possible biases held by school administrators.

Jackson said that principals go through mandatory training sessions, but mistakes can happen.

“Are our principals trained? Absolutely. Are they human and make mistakes like the rest of us? Yes, but we work to restore harm...,” she said.

In her presentation on school safety, Jackson talked about threats online.

“Reports to police for online threats of violence are three times higher than this time last year,” Jackson said. “This is not a local phenomenon, most threats are communicated online and spread via social media.”

She called these posts a viral way of spreading “community distress,” as more people will end up sharing posts to alert others. Instead of sharing the post with others, she recommended contacting the police when a post is first discovered.

“The appropriate response to a perceived threat is to document and report it to the police immediately,” she said

In other action, the board:

  • Approved designs for additional rooms at Arundel Middle School.
  • Approved designs for Old Mill West High.
  • Approved a design to revitalize Meade High School.
  • Heard a presentation on the mascot and school team name chosen for Crofton High School, set to open next year: the Cardinals.
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