Parents of some students in Carroll County Public Schools think the school system is overreacting by barring field trips to Baltimore for the foreseeable future, while others applauded the decision in an effort to keep students safe.
While waiting to pick up his child from Sandymount Elementary School on Tuesday, parent Jeff Findlay said he understands that safety is important, but Baltimore has a lot to offer. Findlay said he would take his child to the Maryland Science Center “in a heartbeat.”
“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,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
CCPS spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said earlier this week that 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 the decisions. The policy will be looked at again sometime around the start of the second semester in late January, she said.
Findlay said he hopes the kids have a chance to take trips to the city again soon.
“I hope that they reconsider,” he added.
Joanna Grimes, of Westminster, said via email the decision to ban the trips is an “injustice to our children,” and expressed frustration the decision was made without the opinion of parents.
“There is so much culture within the city that needs to be shared with the youth,” she said. “If the ‘escalating violence’ is such a concern, then why are the other counties within the state not mandated to follow the same recommendation? Who is making these decisions and have they consulted the appropriate sources? Perhaps Carroll County could work with Baltimore city’s law enforcement and leadership programs to discuss the safety implications for tourist programs. We need to support the city that we know and love rather than turn our backs.”
For some parents, the decision was more than welcome.
“I think it’s a wonderful decision,” Jody Dixon, of Manchester, said. “It’s really not safe.”
Dixon, who has one child in the school system said with the recent crime and the riots in 2015, she said, the crime rate in the city is “horrendous.” Dixon also said there are other places the students can go, and there are programs that can be brought into the schools.
“There's plenty of other things to do than go to the Inner Harbor,” she added.
Ashley Decker, of Westminster, said she already was not going to let her child attend a field trip to Baltimore without her and agrees with CCPS making the decision system-wide. Decker said she’s taken her children to the city before, and they were “terrified.”
“It’s so easy for them to be snatched,” she said. “I just think Baltimore City is not a place for young elementary and middle schoolers.”
The students should be doing field trips more locally, she added.
But others like Andrew Smith, who also a child at Sandymount Elementary, said there is a lot to do in the city that the students don’t have in Carroll, like the Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium, he said.
It’s important to get kids out of the classroom, he said. And, bad things can happen in other places, not just in Baltimore.
“Violence is everywhere,” he said.
Tara Battaglia, of Westminster, and a candidate for a seat on the Board of Education, also agreed with the decision, especially since it’s a recommendation coming from the sheriff, she said. While crime can happen anywhere, she added, it’s important to be cautious.
And, she said, it’s only temporary until things calm down.
Battaglia said in order for her to feel comfortable with CCPS reinstating Baltimore field trips, there would have to be a decrease in crime in the tourist areas, and an increase in security.
CCPS hasn’t laid out specifics of what would have to change before field trips to Baltimore City come back. And, the current regulation from the school system only stops field trips to Baltimore, not other cities like Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia, something some parents took issue with.
Raza Khan, of Westminster, has two children in CCPS. Khan, who works for Carroll Community College, said he’s concerned that there’s no baseline on the ban to understand which cities students shouldn’t go to, and when it will be safe to again go on field trips to Baltimore.
“What does it take for Baltimore City to be banned? What does it take for Baltimore City to be lifted from the ban?” he said. “The issue for me is I don’t know what the baseline.”
Khan also said there is crime in other cities too, and it’s important to be safe in all of them.
“We have to be vigilant. We make sure we take day trips and not night trips. We make sure we have more chaperones,” he said.
But it’s important to realize the trips students are going on are in safe areas, Kahn said. And if the school systems think the trips are valid and helpful, CCPS should do what it takes to go and be safe there, he added.
Rachel Anglemyer, a third-grade teacher at Sandymount Elementary, certainly believes in the value of field trips. Her class was supposed to take a trip to the city in December, which was canceled under the new policy. While she would not comment specifically on the stop of Baltimore trips, Anglemyer said field trips offer an authentic opportunity for the kids to have life experience and see things in action.
And, she said, it gets the kids out of the county. For many of them, it’s their first time visiting Baltimore or Annapolis or Washington, D.C., when they take a field trip. “It’s a great way to support curriculum,” she added.