Hampstead Elementary School parent Andy Smith’s child was on a class field trip to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore earlier this month when, just across the street at Rash Field, a 15-year-old boy was sitting in the bleachers loading a replica gun.

The incident, along with other recent violence in the city, prompted Smith to reach out to Carroll County Public Schools’ administration and Sheriff Jim DeWees to ask why field trips to the city were still being allowed.


Last Wednesday, Nov. 22, Carroll County Public Schools suspended all student travel to Baltimore on the recommendation of DeWees. The policy restricts travel to venues within the Baltimore City limits.

“In light of recent violence in the traditional tourist areas of the City, the Sheriff agrees that the best course of action is to temporarily suspend travel to Baltimore City venues,” according to a statement from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

Schools spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said some trips may be allowed on a case-by-case basis, but school administration would weigh the importance of the trip with student safety when making those decisions. The policy will be re-evaluated around the start of the second semester in late January, she said.

Smith said he is happy with the school system’s decision, but he wasn’t sure what it would take for him to be comfortable with the school board to lift the restriction on field trips to Baltimore.

“This is one of those things where being overly cautious is probably the best policy, rather than waiting for something to happen that you can’t undo,” Smith said.

The conversation began Nov. 16 after Smith sent the email to DeWees, schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie and members of the Board of Education, Gaddis said. DeWees responded to the email, which was obtained by the Times, stating, “I also have great concern about school trips to the city. I have three children in CCPS’s (sic) and will not allow them in Baltimore City without me present.”

DeWees said the decision was a result of discussion between school system administrators, the Carroll County Public Schools Supervisor of Security and Emergency Management Duane Williams and himself. Following discussion on whether to send an armed escort along with the field trips, DeWees said it was preferable to cancel them out of caution.

“I appreciate the schools bringing me into the discussion,” he said.

Ultimately it was the decision of the schools superintendent and his staff to restrict the field trip travel, DeWees said. As a former Maryland state trooper and husband of a CCPS teacher, he is in support of the decision.

“I think any reasonable law enforcement executive and parent of three children in the Carroll County Public Schools would agree that there’s an uptick in violence in the tourist areas in Baltimore City,” DeWees said.

Board of Education President Devon Rothschild said she found the recommendation confusing because no acute incident of violence was cited, but “as a board, we obviously cannot ignore the recommendation of the sheriff.”

Several assaults and robberies were reported over the Halloween weekend, and an employee of a Federal Hill bar was robbed and killed outside a convenience store near Key Highway on Nov. 14, police said. Earlier this month the city’s homicide count surpassed 300 for the third year in a row.

Bob Lord, the vice president of the Carroll school board, said there is precedent for this decision: A county-wide suspension on travel to Baltimore was implemented during 2015 citing concern over rioting.

School system officials could not recall any previous incidents on field trips to the city, Gaddis said.


Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Steven Johnson sent an email Nov. 22 to staff outlining CCPS guidelines “effective immediately” for field trips to Baltimore City “out of an abundance of caution for our students, staff members and chaperones.”

Any trip already planned for Baltimore that could be rescheduled to a different location or that could be canceled should be, according to the guidelines, and no new field trips to Baltimore are to be planned until CCPS re-evaluates at the beginning of the second semester. Trips that could not be canceled due to prepayment are not to include “free time” or “lunch on your own” for students to walk around the city or Inner Harbor, and school administrators are to contact Baltimore City Watch to advise them of the field trip.

Time on your own, for example, could be students visiting the Maryland Science Center may be able to have lunch, along with a chaperone, at a restaurant in the Inner Harbor, Gaddis said.

Special events such as sports playoff or championship games, proms and senior dinner cruises must make transportation available to students and must provide security officers at the location, according to the policy.

The school system had not directly communicated the policy countywide with parents, rather principals have been connecting with their school communities individually, Gaddis said.

The Times is aware of at least two field trips this week affected by the policy change. An email sent out to parents at Westminster Elementary School stated that a planned third-grade trip to the Maryland Science Center on Friday, Dec. 1, has been canceled. Students and chaperones would be refunded, according to the statement.

Francis Scott Key High School’s band will not participate as planned in the Baltimore Mayor’s Annual Christmas Parade, taking place in Hampden Sunday, Dec. 3. Carroll County has sent other school bands in past years, but this would have been Francis Scott Key’s first time in the parade.

In a statement emailed to the Times, president of the FSK Instrumental Music Boosters Joanie Mayle wrote “CCPS made this decision as a precaution for the safety of students, staff, and volunteers. After consulting with law enforcement and the Maryland Center for School Safety, CCPS deemed this decision to be necessary. As a parent and volunteer, I appreciate that our children’s safety is and continues to be the highest priority at CCPS.”

Thomas Kerr, chairman of the annual holiday parade, said he was notified of the decision by FSK’s band director.

“I was really taken back by it,” Kerr said. “It was a great band. We had a sponsor for them and everything.”


Schools bands from Baltimore County and Baltimore City, and bands from Philadelphia and Virginia, are planning to perform. Kerr does not expect other school cancellations.

Though named for the mayor, the parade is funded through donations and private fundraising, including sponsorships of floats and bands, Kerr said.

Kerr said he was “disheartened” that crime in the city was discouraging people from coming to a fun and positive event for the city.

“Where does it end?” he asked. “We’re trying to get something good in the city and that’s what we do — we get real good crowds, people come from all over the city.”

Mayor Catherine Pugh, who recently called crime in the city “out of control” and ordered 30 agency heads to attend daily meetings at the Baltimore Police Department, was nevertheless let down by the decision, her spokesman said in a statement.

“Mayor Pugh is disappointed by the Carroll County Public Schools decision and hopes that they will reconsider,” spokesman Anthony McCarthy said. “The events and sights the students were set to participate in and visit are unique and represent positive experiences for these young people.”

School officials in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard and Baltimore counties said they have no plans to cancel field trips.

Times editor Wayne Carter and Baltimore Sun reporters Colin Campbell, Sarah Gantz and Talia Richman contributed to this article.