Baltimore School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey planned a special meeting of all secondary school principals today to discuss school violence and safety, a day after a school police officer at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School was shot as he struggled to take a gun away from a 14-year-old student.
But the superintendent rebuffed the idea of metal detectors or more school police officers. Instead, the superintendent plans to review whether the school police force is going about its job the right way.
"We've got to structure a schoolsystem that more adequately meets the needs of youngsters today," he said at a meeting of the mayor's cabinet at a West Baltimore elementary school. "That isn't the case right now."
Officer James Kelly, 39, a 15-year veteran, was shot in the stomach by a student recently transferred to Roland Park after disciplinary problems at another school, officials said.
Officer Kelly, assigned to the north Baltimore school just three months ago from Lombard Middle School, was listed in serious but stable condition today at the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center.
Peter Adams, 14, of the 600 block of McCabe Ave., was charged as an adult with attempted murder and handgun violations police said. Three other youths were detained for questioning but were not charged last night.
Before doors opened today at the school, students, parents and others gathered outside had varied reactions to yesterday's shooting.
A few students suggested that school authorities should use metal detectors to screen students for weapons. But other students and a number of parents insisted such a move would be an overreaction.
"You don't punish the whole school for one child's actions," said one sixth grader who didn't want her name used. Violence can occur at any school, regardless of where it is, she said, pointing to the private Roland Park Country School across Roland Avenue.
"If it's going to happen, it's going to happen," she said.
Other students blamed it on an increasingly violent society and parents who need to be stricter.
"It's everyone's fault for the environment around us," said Tonisha Williams, 11, a fifth grader.
Parents, upset and confused about the shooting, said they were sticking by the school and its administrators, including principal Evelyn T. Beasley.
"Generally, it's not a violent place," said Paulette McFaul. Her sons Lauren, 12, and Coby, 13, attend the school.
"I'm trying to be reasonable and rational about it," Mrs. McFaul said. "There's always been a commitment to excellence since Mrs. Beasley took over" about 15 years ago.
But, Mrs. McFaul said, Mrs. Beasley and other administrators are struggling with a seriously over-crowded school. The school has about 400 more students than it was designed to hold, she said.
"They need to limit the number of kids who come here," Mrs. McFaul said. She also said the staff should do a better job of patrolling the halls.
And school system's practice of sending troublesome kids from other areas to the Roland Park schools has worsened the problems, Mrs. McFaul said. Mrs. Beasley and other officials at the school need more say in what students they will accept.
"We have to take any kid that the central administration sends us," Mrs. McFaul said.
Roland Park draws students from across the city. It has an enrollment of about 1,800 students.
Crowding, as well as a recent influx of disciplinary cases transferred to Roland Park from other schools, has been a nagging concern of parents and teachers, said Meg McFadden, executive vice president of the Roland Park Parent Teacher Student Association.
"A lot of these kids end up bouncing around from school to school, and their problems aren't addressed," said Ms. McFadden. She said said many disciplinary cases are sent to Roland Park because of the school's strong reputation.
The shooting occurred shortly before 3 p.m. when the school principal, vice principal and the officer took two students into the school police office to "counsel" them after an argument, Larry Burgan, head of the city school police, said.
The principal, vice principal and one of the youths then left the office. While in the office with the other youth, Officer Kelly and the boy got into a struggle, Mr. Burgan said.
During the struggle, the officer was shot once in the stomach with a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun, Mr. Burgan said.
The wounded officer called for help, and a maintenance man helped the officer subdue and handcuff the youth. The handgun was recovered at the scene.
Only one shot was fired, and no other injuries were reported.
The two boys had scuffled last week, but school officials thought the youths had resolved their differences. They are unsure what caused the dispute to flare up.
School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said both boys were transfer students with a history of violence and fights in schools.
A crisis team was going to the school today if any students need counseling, Dr. Amprey said.
The superintendent said that unless youths' values change, "you probably will see a recurrence of this kind of thing."
Yesterday's shooting was the second since September in a city school. In the earlier incident, a Hamilton Middle School student shot himself in the foot.