Shady Spring Elementary School offers an after school etiquette class to any fourth and fifth grade student who would like to attend. The program is called Guys with Ties and Girls with Pearls. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun video)
Educators have decried what they say is the increasing lack of respect their students seem to show adults and each other: the talking back, the failure to treat others with kindness, the displays of bad manners.
Instead of complaining, Wendy Carver decided to do something about it.
Carver, a guidance counselor at Shady Spring Elementary School, started an after-school club four years ago called Guys with Ties, Girls with Pearls to give some fourth- and fifth-graders a chance to learn about and practice etiquette.
"A big part of being mannerly is being respectful," she said. "It has been my hope that by teaching the students manners and etiquette they will become more respectful of others and themselves."
Along with the challenging work of instructing students on how to show more decorum in an era of anything-goes impropriety, teachers at the eastern Baltimore County school are also pushing the students to consider making better sartorial statements.
The fourth- and fifth-graders are encouraged to dress up every Thursday. Although the attire is optional, many come to school wearing their Sunday best; the boys in jackets and ties, the girls is dresses and skirts. Those who don't have ties can get one from the principal, who keeps a large stack of donated ties in his office. The girls get a string of plastic pearls to wear.
"Every Thursday we promote dress for success," Principal Kenneth Dunaway said. "I have kids come to me with a T-shirt on and say, 'I forgot to dress up.'"
He hands them ties.
Schools across the county are creating mentoring programs that foster leadership, ethics, and proper social behavior, said Marcus Wimberly, the mentor facilitator for Baltimore County schools.
At Randallstown Elementary, a program called Boys in the Good encourages boys to work on projects that help their school and community, simultaneously fostering good behavior and good deeds.
The program is teaching "students to have pride in themselves," Wimberly said.
Some schools are even promoting kindness and civility as a countermeasure to the mean-spirited bullying that takes place on social media.
The etiquette club at Shady Springs meets once a month. Students are taught 21st-century manners along with old-school courtesy. They learn how to correctly pull out a chair for a lady, how to write a thank you note, and what they should or shouldn't say on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
Teacher Julie Taylorson was teaching Internet etiquette to a group of children one afternoon.
Before posting anything on social media, she told them, ask yourself three questions: Is it nice? Is it honest? Is it necessary?