Graffitied shoes and books, drawings, T-shirts, scribbled-out books — on Thursday, July 26 teachers gathered around a table chock full of gang paraphernalia confiscated from the Carroll County Detention Center (CCDC).
The display was part of the Safe Schools Training, organized by the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office. It brought together teachers, school administrators and law enforcement including members of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and the Westminster Police Department to share information.
The day’s presenters focused on three areas: Gangs, drug trends in Carroll County and child abuse and child sex abuse.
The first topic was a new program, titled Handle with Care, that aims to help schools respond appropriately to students who have been through traumatic events.
Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo and Superintendent of School Counseling Judy Klinger spoke about how when emergency services are called to an incident like an overdose or a serious domestic violence incident, children are often on scene. Sometimes the child is the one who has called 911.
Through the Handle with Care program, these responders can fill out a form that sends a notification to the child’s school. Without revealing specific details, this will notify the school counselor and administrator immediately that the child was involved in a traumatic event.
If educators notice signs like tiredness or incomplete homework, they will be able to address this appropriately rather than punishing the student, DeLeonardo said.
This can help counselors respond to the child with trauma-informed counseling, Klinger said.
Handle with Care got started last spring in Carroll County Public Schools and will be in effect for the first full year in 2018-19. DeLeonardo hopes to see it encompass private schools in the future.
During the summer, administrators have still been receiving the alerts, Klinger said.
When he builds a file on someone, he sorts out what are authentic signals of gang affiliation and what may be copycatting or things gleaned from pop culture.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Courtney Colonese and Arnott presented on some of these signs to the gathered educators Thursday morning, with a focus on asking them to report these signs and trusting that professionals were trained to look at them with a critical eye for what is legitimate.
Arnott also shared data on the number of confirmed gang members who had been arrested in Carroll or processed through CCDC in the past year.
They presented on factors that might push or pull young people to join gangs and indicators of gang recruitment and activity.
DeLeonardo said that because the county has such a low crime rate, presentations like this were important to raise awareness because its easier for signs to be missed.
With drugs and dealers moving across jurisdictions, “You may not see [gang activity] in terms of the way law enforcement may see some of this, but you may find out people living in the children's home are members. And you may see that influence in that child,” he told the educators present.
Drug Trends in Carroll
The presentation on drug trends in the county focused on spotting red flags.
While students may not be involved in hard drugs, “a lot of the addictive behaviors will start to exhibit themselves in high school, sometimes as low as middle school,” DeLeonardo said.
A presentation about street names, hiding places and latest trends in usage of drugs was designed to go along with educators observances of changes in behavior.
“If you have a student who might be in danger, these might be things to look out for along with other red flags,” said Cara Frieman, the prosecutor for Carroll’s Adult Drug Treatment Court.
During a question-and-answer session, school administrators talked about juuling, how prevalent it is in schools and how difficult it is to convince students and parents that it is a problem.
The discussion over the possible future legalization of marijuana was also brought up as a concern, and all sides anticipated big changes in the way law enforcement and schools would have to work to keep the drug out of the classroom.
Sex offenses and children’s welfare
Schools are the biggest source of reports for the Carroll County Advocacy & Investigation Center (CCAIC), a multidisciplinary office that among other duties, investigates cases of sexually, physically, and emotionally abused children.
The teachers, administrators and law enforcement professionals were all familiar with their responsibilities as mandatory reporters of suspected abuse.
“What you see, what you know, what you learn is huge for us, so don’t take it for granted,” said Sgt. Glenn Day of the CCAIC.
The presentation aimed to expand on what happens following a report.
Amy Ocampo, supervisor of the Special Victims Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office, acknowledged that it can be was frustrating for those who reported to not know what was happening after the report was made because of confidentiality laws.
She also talked about some of the specific charges that can be applied in cases of abuse and the requirements to prove that charge in court.