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Stemmers Run Gun Incident
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September 14, 2012
Gun incidents at two Baltimore County schools have education officials scrambling to implement new security measures. On Tuesday, a student at Stemmers Run Middle School in Essex brought a gun to school and threatened his teacher and classmates with the weapon. No one was injured. On August 27, a student at Perry Hall High School shot a fellow student on the first day of school. That student was released from the hospital this week. As WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn reports, officials plan to use metal detectors and increased police presence in schools to stem violent acts.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Since 2005, there have been 9 gun incidents at Baltimore County schools. Last year, there were none, but there were two over the past two weeks. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says he’s as shocked as the parents and students.
Kevin Kamenetz: I was hopeful that Baltimore County was immune to acts of violence in schools, unfortunately the reality is no one is immune today.
Glenn: Kamenetz has promised to provide the school system with extra resources. Hand-held metal detectors are being purchased for school resource officers to use when suspicious situations arise. He’s also authorizing an increased presence of police in county schools.
Kamenetz: I’ll let the police chief gauge the length of time that we need increased presence. Right now we want to offer reassurance to folks that life is normal again and nothing says that better than having increased police presence.
Glenn: But some experts questioned whether increased police and metal detectors are the way to go. Dr. Eric Rossen is the National Association of School Psychologists’ professional development director.
Dr. Eric Rossen: Some studies have found that the student perception of safety has decreased when those measures are in place and may increase disorder in the school, disruption or increase violence. There is no real scientific evidence to support the use of metal detectors as a means of increasing school safety on a large scale.
Glenn: Rossen adds that this is not to say that police are not needed during a crisis. Kenneth Trump, National School Safety and Security Services president, says he understand parents wanting better security for the safety of their children. But he cautions school officials that their solutions so far may be creating a false sense of security.
Kenneth Trump: Metal detectors, heightened security presence, these are all tangible, visible things that school officials can point to, to calm parents, present to the media, but … 7:51 the first and best line of defense is always a highly trained alert staff and student body.
Glenn: Providing additional safety training for teachers, principals and school police is high on Superintendent Dallas Dance’s list to improve security. He also plans to establish a new security office to focus on safety system wide.
Dallas Dance: This department will serve as a liaison with the Baltimore county police department and with our school resource office program.
Glenn: Dance hopes to find ways to promote closer relationships between school staffs and students. He predicts this will make students feel more comfortable reporting potentially dangerous incidents and feel that school officials are there to counsel and help protect them. Rossen says actions such as these help create a better environment for students to learn.
Rossen: When students are in school where they feel safe, where they feel connected, the environment is welcoming and nurturing, the research is clear that students can learn more. When they do feel safe and connected and that the adults in the building care about them, their learning increases.
Glenn: Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson says the lesson to be learned from the two recent incidents is that gun owners need to keep their weapons locked up. He says his office will aggressively charge gun owners whose weapons end up in the hands of a minor.
I’m Gwendolyn Glenn reporting in Baltimore for 88 1 WYPR.
You can reach the WYPR Newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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