A recent spate of youth violence, including the stabbing death of a 15-year-old Rockville High School freshman last month, has prompted Montgomery County officials to call on parents to be more involved in their children's lives

"We need the police and schools to work cooperatively with us to keep us informed and support our parenting, but it is ultimately our responsibility as parents to ensure our children's well-being at all times," said Cindy Kerr, president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations.

The county offers several anonymous tip lines that students and other community members can call to report potential threats. Here is a list of those numbers to save for future reference.

* Safe Schools 24-hour hotline: 301-517-5995

* Gang tip line: 240-773-GANG (4264)

* Drug tip line: 240-773-DRUG (3784)

* Crime Solvers: 866-411-TIPS (8477)

People can also contact the Montgomery County Police Department at 301-279-8000.

Supreme Court Draws a Crowd

Montgomery County residents were at the U.S. Supreme Court last week to represent both sides of the debate over who should bear the burden of proof when parents and a school system cannot agree on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a special education student. While lawyers inside argued the merits of Schaffer v. Weast, several of the county's special education parents were out front. Some carried signs in support of the Schaffers of Potomac.

Rose Miller, whose two children attend Montgomery County public schools, said she was there to support the Schaffer family. She said she has tangled with the school system over getting appropriate services for her son.

Educators in Montgomery County and the Schaffers could not agree on an education plan for their son Brian, and the family sued for reimbursement of the private school tuition they paid until the dispute could be settled. Brian eventually graduated from Walter Johnson High School and is now a junior in college, but the case has continued to wind its way through the legal system.

"My feeling is that it's anyone's guess," said Jocelyn Schaffer, when asked her opinion about the arguments last week.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, along with several members of the Board of Education, were also at the court. At a news briefing following oral arguments, Weast reiterated his stand that the party challenging the IEP should bear the burden of proof. He argued that if the burden always falls on the school system, then the plans it offers parents will always be viewed with suspicion.

Music for Katrina Evacuees

Students in the Washington area have pitched in to do everything from contribute money to collect backpacks for kids affected by Hurricane Katrina. Now, students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School are hoping to bring some music back into the lives of their displaced counterparts.

Members of the Class of 2007 are asking community members to donate personal compact-disc players (new or gently used), headphones, CDs and batteries for the campus's sister school, Central High in Baton Rouge, La. Gift cards and checks are also welcome.

The donations can be dropped off at the main office at B-CC High School, the customer service desk at Barnes & Noble, 4801 Bethesda Ave., or at two Chevy Chase locations: Brookville Pharmacy, 7025 Brookville Rd., or the Leland Center, 4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase. The deadline for donations is Oct. 23.

Plan to Revamp Middle Schools

The Montgomery County system's efforts to revamp its middle schools is moving forward. A steering committee has been put together to help develop a reform plan that will include a focus on the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students, English-language learners, student with disabilities and students who live in poverty.

The proposed plan is expected to be completed in the fall of 2006. It is clear work needs to be done to help students in grades 6-8 meeting expectations. According to the 2005 Maryland School Assessment results, 11 of the system's 36 middle schools did not meet their targets for Annual Yearly Progress toward ensuring all students are proficient in reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind act.