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Why do media in Baltimore and beyond sensationalize the bad and neglect the good?

Recently, a Dumbarton Middle school student made a series of poor choices on a bus ride home from school, involving violence and a knife. Thankfully, no one was injured, and all the children arrived home safely. I empathize with all the families involved. As a parent of two Dumbarton students, it is my expectation that my children attend a safe school and that Baltimore County Public Schools provide safe and reliable transportation every day. Unfortunately, there is no way to 100 percent guarantee the safety of everyone every day, but I do believe that the school's administration puts the safety of children as its number one priority.

With that said, I am saddened by The Baltimore Sun’s choice to run this story on the front page the following day.

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Three and a half hours after this incident occurred, more than 200 6th graders returned to Dumbarton that evening to perform in the annual winter concert. By 7 p.m. the newly renovated auditorium was packed with families who came out on a very cold winter evening in support of their children and the performing arts program at Dumbarton. This story did not make it into The Baltimore Sun.

A 12-year-old Dumbarton Middle School student pulled a knife on his classmate during a fight on the school bus Monday afternoon, Baltimore County Police said.

The very next afternoon at 4 p.m., while the Channel 11 news van was out front of Dumbarton Middle School apparently reporting on the knife story, the DMS boys and girls Basketball teams were winning their basketball games in the school gym. I did not see a story on this.

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The week before this incident, an 8th girl grade won the DMS geography bee and will go on to compete at the county level; did The Sun cover that event? There are 30 or so kids that stay after school every Tuesday and Thursday preparing for a play that will be performed in March. Dumbarton has a Kindness Club, and 15 or so students recently gave up their afternoons to spend time painting bowls for the St. Vincent De Paul's annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls.

This list could go on. My point is, all the aforementioned "good" things that these kids do may end up in a little blurb buried in the paper — not the front page. These are the children making good choices, and yet we do not publicly applaud them.

The Dumbarton Middle School Eighth Grade Boys’ Soccer team just completed a two-year undefeated run! This season they finished with a record of 12 wins and no losses, and last year as the seventh grade team they had a single tie and all the other games were wins.

I do not know what causes a person of any age to choose violence to solve their problems; I suppose there are a myriad of reasons. We teach our children from a very early age to keep their hands to themselves but to make sure that no one pushes them around: mixed messages. Unfortunately, there is violence in our schools, on our streets and in our communities; yet there is also leadership, community service and stewardship. But we largely see negative stories continue to make the front page — more mixed messages.

Of course there is a responsibility to report serious events happening around us and to be aware of what is happening in our communities. But how nice would it be if every morning, on the front page, there was a positive public interest story? How the students at Riderwood Elementary School made "care packages" for the homeless or how a group of students at Rodgers Forge Elementary visited an elderly community? There are hundreds of these stories that happen every day in our schools and in our communities that never even make it to the daily paper. Occasionally, you can read about the good in our neighborhoods on Wednesday mornings when the Towson Times (part of the Baltimore Sun Media Group) arrives.

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Why do we continue to sensationalize the poor choices that children make and ignore all the positive things going on around us? I know that violence and corruption make great headlines but so do awkward middle school kids who are making the right choices as they learn to navigate this crazy world. Let’s do a better job highlighting young people for the good choices that they make and not allow the poor choices of one person to dominate the headlines.

Suzanne Spencer is a parent of two Dumbarton students. Her email is stspencer@verizon.net.

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