School for troubled kids troubles its neighbors


Claiming that students from a neighboring school for troubled youths threaten the safety of William H. Lemmel Middle School students, a group of West Baltimore residents picketed in front of both schools yesterday and said they want the alternative school moved.

Members of the "Parent Academy of Lemmel Middle School" also said that students at the Baltimore Alternative Middle School cause problems in the community before and after school.

"How are kids going to learn if they're scared to go to school," said Winnie Gibson, the grandparent of a Lemmel student. "It's just very disruptive having that school here."

The Baltimore Alternative Middle School opened in September for students who had disciplinary problems at other city middle schools. The school has 37 students and its classrooms are housed in a building less than 20 yards from Lemmel. The schools share the same address, 2801 N. Dukeland St.

Protesters said that students from the alternative school often threaten and fight Lemmel students, and make it dangerous for them to come to school.

The alternative school dismisses students at 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than does Lemmel.

"It's a lot of students that come into Lemmel and cause a lot of confusion," said Maggie Robinson, a grandparent of a Lemmel student.

Donna Franks, a city schools spokeswoman, said Superintendent Walter G. Amprey met with members of the Parent Academy last month and will probably meet with them again. "He's not one to ignore a situation," Ms. Franks said.

Late yesterday afternoon, Dr. Amprey released a statement in which he said school officials are "going to take whatever action needed to correct the situation."

Ms. Gibson said some of the students are uncontrollable. "I saw one young man walk on a car from the front to the trunk. The problem is the students there are disruptive," she said. "The students there were problems at other schools; that's why they've all been put in here together. And they're disruptive here."

The protesters want the alternative school moved somewhere where its students would not interfere with students of traditional schools or cause problems in neighborhoods. Some say they feel that the Lemmel community got "dumped on" when the alternative school was located there.

Phillip A. Brown Jr., president of the Parent Teacher Association for city public schools, said the alternative school should not be so close to a traditional school.

"Would you put this next to City Hall? Would you put this next to [the school administration building on] North Avenue? Of course not," he said.

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