'How protected are we at our schools in Maryland?' Baltimore County parents ask administrators

“The whole reason I’m here is the elephant in the room,” Marty Frederick said. “The shooting.”

Frederick, a Lutherville man wearing a T-shirt with a Maryland flag-themed crab on it, sat at a table with a handful of other parents of Baltimore County public school students for a meeting on school safety Wednesday night at school headquarters in Towson.

Like many of the parents who gathered, he woke up after the shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17. He has a daughter in middle school. And he wanted to know one thing: “How protected are we at our schools in Maryland?”

But school officials at Wednesday night’s meeting on school safety did little to allay the concerns of many of the 50 or so parents who showed up. Some parents criticized administrators for not advertising the meeting more widely and for using the meeting to rehash old information.

“This meeting was not designed to address” concerns relating to the Parkland shooting, said community superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox, who was on hand Wednesday night, answering questions from parents. It was the fifth in a series of meetings designed to engage the community and explain school policies on discipline, such as restorative practices.

After over an hour of presentations by school officials and principals, parents were invited to break into smaller groups to list some of their fears and possible solutions on a white poster.

“They buzz you in. They don’t ask who you are,” said Kimberly Fitzwater, who has a third-grader in the Northeast district. By the time a visitor would be stopped by a school administrator, she said, “I have a chance to wreak havoc in them hallways.”

Martin-Knox said school administrators would listen to parents’ concerns and look for common themes to address.

“We have a discipline committee,” she said. “We’ll sit down and look at the information that they have created.”

School officials also stressed that buildings are all equipped with buzzers and cameras, and advised parents not to hold the door when entering.

Samantha Smith, PTA president of Villa Cresta Elementary, said she thinks the county administrators have hamstrung teachers with regards to disciplining unruly classroom behavior.

“Children no longer have consequences. Children who need that structure they grow up and they become the people who commit those acts,” she said, referring to the shooting in Parkland.

Victoria Price, 16, a sophomore at Perry Hall, came to voice her displeasure with behavioral problems at the school, which she says is badly overcrowded.

“Fights randomly break out,” she said. “There’s a huge drug problem. Vaping is a big issue.”

Her mother, Veronica, said the Florida shooting had only increased her fears for her daughter.

“Many, many parents are frightened to take their kids to school,” she said. “Parkland was over the edge.”



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