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Task Force On School Safety Is Absolutely Necessary

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on April 08, 2005:

Senator Dyson Last fall, I was asked and pleased to introduce a bill, Senate Bill 501, that would address the issue of school safety in our public and non-public schools.

The person who asked me to introduce the bill convinced me to do so after speaking with great passion about seeing first-hand reports of violence in our schools that werenít being addressed. This included harassment, threats to fellow students and teachers alike and behavior that could be deemed dangerous.

After the Columbine incident in Colorado, I wrote a letter to then-Governor Parris N. Glendening asking him to create such a task force to address this issue. The governor didnít see the need despite the horrible tragedy that occurred there that day.

Now, ironically and sadly, in light of the recent terrible school shootings in Minnesota, my bill -- introduced on Feb. 4, more than a month before the Minnesota masacre, has taken on added significance. It has come to light in the days since it appeared one troubled student participated in the shootings, that unlike what was first reported, more than one student was involved in the plot to kill innocent youths.

The Minnesota shootings grab all the headlines, but the issue of school violence doesnít just come down to the horrible incidents at Columbine and in Minnesota where we mourn and pray for those lost or wounded then simply move on. Itís an issue bigger than that. Every day, someone is either bullied, threatened or subject to some other form of intimidation. This is an issue we need to be concerned about every day.

I have heard of students who are afraid to go to school because they are afraid one of their classmates will do them harm. Teachers complain of rowdy atmospheres where a small group of students cause the classroom to become untenable.

Incredibly, the Maryland State Board of Education has said they donít see a need for this bill. They say they have everything under control. They are burying their heads in the sand on this. Our schools are not safe. Thankfully, the Maryland State Teachers Association does see the need for this bill as they submitted testimony in support of Senate Bill 501.

According to the Maryland Disability Law Center, the number of students suspended from school each year is steadily increasing. Last year, 9.3 percent of the statewide student population (78,507 students) were suspended. Thatís up from 8.9 percent during the 2002-03 school year.

In the March 30, 2005 issue of the Maryland Independent newspaper, I was appalled to read: ďThe family of a 17-year old mentally disabled Thomas Stone High School is alleging that the Charles County School System is incapable of providing a safe education to the girl after she was the victim of two separate sexual assaults with the past two years that involved other students who still allegedly attend the school.Ē

Am I attacking the Charles County School System. No. Itís an excellent system. Iím just saying that my bill would go along way towards helping systems like Charles and all of the others in the state address the issue of school violence without having one hand tied behind their back. The MSDE says theyíve got it all under control. But weekly, I hear of one incident at another of problems of violence in our school system. This problem will not get better until it is adequately addressed by experts in various fields who will bring their own unique perspectives and expertise to this issue.

I would ask that the MSDE work with, not against me, to help the at-risk students and the teachers and administrators who fight with this issue every day. Senate Bill 501 is vital.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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