I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. We are definitely blessed in our country and here in Carroll County in so many ways.
Recently Carroll County Public Schools has been in the news for the decision to temporarily suspend field trips to Baltimore City. Now that suspension has been reversed thanks to additional planning and investigation done by Sheriff Jim DeWees working with Baltimore City officials and our local school system. The original announcement prompted some breathless reporting — most of it designed to be critical of the county and place the decision in a political light. However, the decision was not a final pronouncement, obviously — it was really more of an extended evaluation of student visits which will be ongoing even as trips resume now.
There was precedent for CCPS to make this type of decision to focus on student safety. During the D.C. sniper crisis, CCPS took additional caution whenever students left the building and postponed all field trips until the attacker was apprehended. Most recently in 2015, CCPS and other area schools suspended trips to Baltimore City following the unrest caused by Freddie Gray’s death. Now, violence has again escalated to very troubling levels, even affecting areas of the city that tended to be pretty safe in the past.
Condemnations from sources that I would characterize as apologists for the failed policies that have helped make the crisis in Baltimore worse came fast and furious — as if this was something other than an attempt to be sure that our students were safe. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democratic candidate for governor, immediately put out a pearl-clutching, condescending statement quoting Plato about "men being afraid of the light" or some such nonsense. I would suggest that the county executive focus on his own county school system decisions, where both the immediate past superintendent and the current interim superintendent have both been revealed to have concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in income from private education technology companies that were given contracts with Baltimore County Public Schools.
I will say that not everyone who disagreed with the decision acted so immaturely. Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen reached out to Sheriff DeWees to talk about the situation and to look for ways to address the concerns that he and the school system have. That outreach and the conversations that ensued, I'm sure, helped a lot with getting to a place where trips could continue with proper vetting.
CCPS and Sheriff DeWees made the choice to do the very best to protect our students. This was not an "anti-Baltimore" position. Speaking for myself, I care deeply about the health and well-being of Baltimore and its residents. Certainly, from an economic and human perspective, we want the city to be healthy — it's important for our entire region. In the upcoming General Assembly session, beginning in January, the committee I sit on, Senate Judicial Proceedings, will be spending a lot of time and energy examining what can be done to stop the violence in the city. Gov. Larry Hogan is also rolling out initiatives aimed at stopping violence and punishing perpetrators including ensuring that people who commit violent crimes or who have illegal guns get real jail time.
Our students will continue to experience some of the great educational and historical locations in Baltimore, but I'm glad that CCPS and Sheriff DeWees put the safety of our kids, staff and parent chaperones first.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas season. If you are so inclined, pray for Baltimore, its people and its leaders during this time.
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Justin Ready is a Republican state senator representing Carroll County in District 5. He writes from Manchester.