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[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]
Posted on April 14, 2006:
Ensuring the safety of students and all who work in our schools is one of the most important issues we face.
That is why I introduced Senate Bill 146 -- Task Force on School Safety --this year. I submitted the bill last year where it passed easily in the Senate, but died in the House of Delegates. This year, it sailed through both houses as members of both parties realized this is a very important and pressing issue after a series of violent incidents occurred in schools or on school grounds during the past year all across the State.
Last year, the Maryland State Department of Education fought my bill basically saying everything in our schools was fine. They changed their mind over the course of the year and supported this legislation.
This bill had numerous co-sponsors including Senators from Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Montgomery County and Dorchester County. All signed on because they know school violence should not be tolerated anywhere in Maryland.
I was asked to introduce this bill again this year by several parents, teachers and others who have been victimized by intimidation -- a form of violence -- or have had their children be subjected to acts of violence in school.
In the November 16, 2005 edition of the Calvert Independent, a story ran with the headline: “Board discusses outside cameras at high schools.” Marty Madden’s story went on to say that the Calvert County school board was considering installing surveillance cameras after “several recent vandalism incidents at the schools.”
Teachers have reported to me that they have received violent threats from students, but have not come forward to report them due to fear of reprisal. Students are often bullied, harassed and at times, injured or killed on school grounds. The school environment should not be a battleground where students, teachers and other employees are afraid to come to learn and work. If someone in a school fears for their safety, how can they effectively learn or teach?
Senate Bill 146 establishes a Blue Ribbon Task Force of experts in various fields who are concerned about the issue of school safety. Those who will be sitting on the task force include members of the Senate and House of Delegates, the State Superintendent of Schools or their designee, two representatives of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, four public school teachers from different geographic areas of the state, two parents of public school student, an expert on disabled students and several others.
The bill also includes a representative of school bus drivers. The St. Mary’ s Today website allowed bus drivers to express their concerns, fear, frustrations and reports of incidents on their busses that were very disturbing to say the least. The school bus driver representation was not included in last year’s bill, but after reading the accounts of the bus drivers in Southern Maryland, I felt it necessary to include them in this year’s bill.
Let me clear up a few misconceptions about this bill. It does not mandate officers in schools or call for metal detectors and other draconian proposals. The good aspect of this bill is that it does not mandate anything other than to come up with a comprehensive report on how to make our schools safer and deliver a report of its findings to the governor, the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.
Typically, after the governor and the committees who first heard the bill receive the task force’s findings, they develop legislation often recommended by the task force.
I have served on numerous task forces that have done just that and several outstanding bills have come about because the members who I have worked with came to the table with good intentions to find good, common-sense solutions to problems.
For instance, I was proud to sit on the Agriculture Stewardship Commission during the 2005 interim. The committee came up with a bill that passed this year that will help our farmers and the Chesapeake Bay. The Agricultural Stewardship Act of 2006 was introduced as a direct result of the recommendations of the Commission I sat on along with farmers and agricultural, environmental and Chesapeake Bay experts.
If we can help our farmers and strengthen our Bay’s health, I know the Safe Schools Task Force can help find a way to protect our teachers, students and employees.
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