Baltimore County School Expulsions
According to an article in The Sun June 10, Dr. Stuart Berger, newly appointed superintendent of Baltimore County public schools, is critical of the system's policy concerning use, possession and distribution of illegal drugs and disruptive behavior, including the possession of weapons on school property.
Dr. Berger views the disciplinary aspect of this policy as "mandatory sentencing," and thinks that it should be reviewed. As George Will would say: "Well now!'
One would hope that before making any rash moves in the name of change, Dr. Berger and the board would consult with school-level administrators, parents and teachers concerning the effectiveness of the current policy as it relates to the school atmosphere, and the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn in an environment free of chronic and violent disruption.
Perhaps a little history is in order. In the late '70s it was becoming clear to those of us in school-level administrative positions that the presence of drugs on the school campus and the influence of the drug culture was becoming a problem of serious proportions.
Although we were using all legal means at our disposal, such as counseling, referral to community agencies, in-school suspensions, suspension to parents, involvement of pupil personnel workers and school psychologists, it was apparent that the problem of serious school disruptions due to drug-related activity was not being successfully addressed.
Parents, students and community leaders were all of the same voice in asking us to deal with the problem more effectively.
The bottom line was that we had to remove the offenders from the schools.
To quote Dr. Berger, the solution was a "difficult and painful process" that took "intestinal fortitude." The idea of expulsion for violation of the policy was not a decision taken lightly without a great deal of discussion and thought.
The current policy has had its critics. It is important to note here that it has withstood challenge in court and scrutiny by the ACLU.
The result has been a school system in which, for the most part, teachers and students can go about the business of teaching and learning in an environment devoid of continuous and serious disruption.
There are aspects of the policy that should perhaps be reviewed for the general public.
First, beginning at the upper elementary grades, the policy is thoroughly explained to each student as it is each year thereafter. New and late entrants are made aware of the policy as soon as they enter a Baltimore County public school.
Administrators, counselors and teachers share in giving this information to students. Copies of the policy are also sent to parents for their information.
Secondly, expulsion is mandatory, but not before a thorough review by members of the superintendent's staff and a committee of lay board members. There have been cases where the expulsion has been rescinded for cause.
Thirdly, the expulsion is reviewed periodically and a student showing a sincere effort to progress with his or her education can be reinstated, often in the following school year.
Fourth, the student under expulsion is given access to a variety of programs including counseling whereby he or she can maintain academic standing while awaiting review and possible reinstatement.
Finally, it should be pointed out that in each case of which I am aware both the parent and the student acknowledge that they have been made aware of the policy and the consequences of its violation.
My involvement in the policy resulted from having served for two years as director of pupil services and five years as assistant superintendent for the Northeast area in the Baltimore County public schools. Prior to that I had been a senior high school administrator for 12 years.
Change is inevitable. To think otherwise would be foolish.
Dr. Berger may well have ideas for change that will have positive results for the schools of Baltimore County.
Let us hope that change for the sake of change is not part of the new approach and that Dr. Berger and the lay board members will think long and hard and listen before abandoning a policy that has served the schools of Baltimore County well for the past 15 years.
one is so naive to think that we have solved the "drug problem" in the Baltimore County public schools.
What has been accomplished is the establishment of an environment wherein learning can take place without unwanted and continuous disruption.
Society at large will someday hopefully solve the pervasive problem of drugs in our communities. When that happens the policy in question will no longer be needed.
G. Wayne Burgemeister
The writer is retired assistant superintendent of Baltimore County public schools.
Whining About Japanese Competition
For the past year we have been subjected to the constant whining of several well known auto executives and politicians about the unfair practices of the Japanese.
I am convinced that this is merely an attempt on the part of U.S. auto executives to try and fix blame for their own shortcomings on the most convenient whipping boy.
These people would have you believe that the reason for the slump in the U.S. auto business is Japanese failure to give American manufacturers access to their market while Japanese auto makers have easy access to the U.S.
In typical American management fashion, a political or legal solution is sought to this problem.
Recent sales figures indicate that, through May, approximately 5,200,000 cars and light trucks were sold in the U.S., 30 percent Japanese nameplates. On an annualized basis, this means approximately 3,750,000 cars and light trucks will be sold by Japanese manufacturers in the U.S. in 1992. Assuming an average sale price of $12,000, this represents sales of approximately $45 billion.
I would suggest that auto executives and politicians redirect all of their energy and consider taking the following steps:
* Concentrate on recapturing the lost American market. Therare potential sales in their own back yard. Just think of all the savings if they don't have to put cars on a boat to Japan. (This assumes that they would manufacture in the U.S. the cars they intend to sell to Japanese consumers.)
* Try and convince the 3,750,000 car and truck buyers who purchase Japanese products to buy U.S. To date, U.S. auto manufacturers have not been able to convince people with their culture and language. Why do they think that they can convince consumers with a different culture and language?
* Go out and ask American consumers what they want in a car. This will provide them with the key to steps they need to take to provide a product consumers will buy. Japanese manufacturers have been able to sell cars in the U.S. because they provide consumers with a product which they want.
* Take all of the funds which they are spending on lobbying, diversification, stock buybacks, etc. and concentrate on building product desired by consumers.
Rumblings out of Detroit indicate that our auto executives are starting to get the message. Let's hope this is the beginning of a long-term change, and we won't have to listen to all this nonsense about the unfair practices of the Japanese.
After all, the U.S. is the largest consumer market in the world. Let Detroit go out and recapture that which they have lost.
John F. Maas
Not an Objective Portrait of Schools
During the week of June 7, the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association read with increasing concern the special reports and related articles in The Sun's series "Bright Faces, Fading Dreams." Throughout the series, the system-wide picture looked bleaker and bleaker as the series exposed problem after problem but no solutions. By week's end, we felt beaten and dismantled by journalistic overkill.
Does our school system have problems? Without a doubt, we do. Do our children have needs that are not being met? Without a doubt, they do. Does our performance leave room for improvement? Without a doubt, it does. Did The Sun's articles paint an objective portrait? Without a doubt, they did not.
Our members, the system's 500-plus principals, assistant principals and central office administrators, are conscientious, professional educators who have dedicated themselves to making a difference for the children of Baltimore City.
These middle managers are joined in their efforts by equally committed teachers, para-professionals and classified staff members. Altogether they make a differ-ence in spite of our system's shortcomings and lack of resources.
For instance, the Edna McConnell Clark-funded initiatives for middle schools received positive recognition by the New York Times in an article last May 10.
However, the only time that The Sun has written about the project in its three-year run was in 1991, when a reporter heard an erroneous rumor that the grant might not be renewed.
The success of All and Essential Schools programs in several of our elementary and high schools are cited as models of achievement in national journals and at national conventions. But The Sun does not devote space to describe the accomplishments of students, staff and schools involved in this effort.
In short The Sun neither recognizes these and other efforts, nor encourages our dedicated employees to continue to seek vehicles for increasing student attendance and achievement or enhancing the self-esteem of students and schools. The newspaper continually fails to mention the students who are turned on by their teachers or the high school graduates who leave school well prepared to meet the demands of life in today's society and ready to tackle the challenges of higher education and the world of work.
PSASA feels that The Sun did a serious disservice to our school system, its constituents and its employees. At a time when we must increase public commitment to our schools in order to energize the public outcry for equitable funding formulas, this series eroded public confidence and undercut our cause. The portrayal of our deficiencies needed to be balanced with pictures of our successes if the design was to secure additional funds and resources.
Our association encourages The Sun to rethink its policy of reporting education news. Specifically PSASA requests your newspaper to adopt a policy of fairness in reporting the Baltimore City Public Schools' story in the 1992-93 school year. We think that equal parts of positives and negatives, good and bad news, problems and solutions will sell newspapers.
Sheila Z. Kolman
The writer is president of the PSASA of Baltimore City.
Double Standard for China and India
Your June 6 editorial, "Bush, Hanging Tough on China," emphatically supported the President's China policy.
According to it, antagonizing China would not be a shrewd move on the part of the U.S. because China, with veto power in the U.N. Security Council, is a world player.
Besides, you seem to believe that capitalism will ultimately liberate China and the U.S. has to be patient. In the meantime, China's repression of Tibet continues, and those who desire democracy for China have no political voice.
There is a clear dichotomy in China between political and commercial freedoms. A tacit understanding seems to run through Chinese society that to prosper materially one must acquiesce politically.
Prior to Tiananmen Square, China had opened its doors to the world. Several capitalistic ventures were thriving, and even villages had their share of private enterprises.
But when Tiananmen Square happened there was no political tide against the old guards in Beijing. The tanks rolled, students died, dissidents were arrested and life moved on.
Tiananmen Square was not China's unified voice of protest, or unified cry for freedom. It was an easily stifled whimper, though it occurred when China was vigorously embracing capitalism.
China's recent detonation of a huge nuclear device and her audacious arms trading practices have not received as much as a rap on the knuckles from the U.S. administration.
On the other hand, India, a democracy of 800 million people, continually faces the specter of U.S. punitive actions.
Only a few weeks before your editorial, the U.S. administration was threatening sanctions against Russia if it transferred rocket technology to India.
After all the intense discussion about rushing to the economic rescue of Russia, the India card was enough to land Russia in the soup.
India's insistence that the rocket technology would be used to enhance telecommunications and weather predictions did little to assuage the hostile suspicions.
Despite Kashmir and Punjab, India is not an oppressive nation. Elections are held regularly and there is vibrant participation. Newspapers are free and the opposition has a strong voice.
India, too, is easing state control on her economy. She has brilliant resourceful professionals and an educated middle-class clamoring for goods.
If India had detonated a huge nuclear device, the U.S. government would have given her nothing short of hell.
The notion that a great, proud India would respond to punishment from a moralizing America is ludicrous, yet that is the policy America has chosen.
That China has exploded a nuclear device after signing a nuclear nonproliferation treaty flies in the face of logic. It is obvious that China does not respect international codes of behavior.
The U.S., the only superpower left in the world, pays lofty lip service to democratic principles and gives the bullies of Beijing a blind eye.
Nuclear China is not a pussy cat. It has had border wars with India and plays mischief in the feud between India and Pakistan.
Perversely, the U.S. is tougher on democracies than it is on dictatorships. Befriending the rogues and manipulating the powerless have become U.S. foreign policy.
The U.S. is smugly settling into the role of international bully. The "only superpower" scenario had endowed U.S. policy makers with inflated heads. Some balloons are inevitably poised for pin-pricks.
Horizon of Our Knowledge
Recent articles in The Sun describing discoveries in outer space have created great excitement among astronomers and science buffs.
Slight temperature variations (on the order of 1/100,000 of a degree) over vast areas furnish yet another confirmation of the "Big Bang" theory. These observations take us back 15 billion years, to within roughly 300,000 years of the creation of the known universe.
This universe has been expanding at a phenomenal rate, almost the speed of light, ever since the "Big Bang." At present it is believed to measure 15 billion or more light years across.
According to some hypotheses, the forces of gravity are slowing down the rate of expansion and, eventually, will bring it to a stop. At that time the universe will begin to contract, falling in upon itself and returning to the infinitely small point that existed before the "Bang." This contraction will take just as many years as did the expansion.
Then what? Will there be another "Big Bang"? Will the entire cycle repeat itself, including creation of new worlds and inhabitants?
If so, then how many times has this cycle been repeated in the past? And how many other "universes" are out there, perhaps 100 billion or more light years away?
Does this now restore the concept of the infinite in both time and space? The word universe, therefore, should be corrected, since ours is a finite system while "universe" is by definition infinite.
So, try as we might, we can never actually reach the horizon of our knowledge. The farther we travel in pursuit of knowledge, the farther will our horizon recede, forever.