You may have read of some pretty startling, frightening incidents in the last few weeks about violent incidents or threats in or around our public schools in Maryland.
Just last week, a teacher was beaten by one of his students with a baseball bat because the teacher gave the student a bad grade. There also was a recent fatal stabbing at a football game in Montgomery County, and I read recently in one paper that a student was suspended from Huntingtown High School after mentioning the horrendous Columbine High School incident while arguing with a fellow student. I've also heard reports that teachers in our local school systems are being threatened with bodily injury, even death.
This is setting up a tsunami of intense concern about school violence. We do not need another Columbine-like incident to occur in Maryland. I believe it is the job of the General Assembly to protect our students and school personnel to the best of our ability.
Our students and teachers are under attack. It pains me to see accounts of students attacking their teachers or each other. When I was a student at Great Mills High School, going to a football game was a great time. The students, teachers, administrators, staff, parents and other fans came out to root on the home team in a safe atmosphere. It was family values at their best. Now, because of recent violence at football games, security is tightened, and a lot of the fun that I remember as a youth has gone out of these games. A sense of dread is ever-present. This isn't right.
During last year's General Assembly session, I introduced Senate Bill 501, which would have established a state task force on school safety. I was absolutely stunned when my bill was opposed by not only State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick, but also the Maryland Association of Boards of Education. In their opposition, both MABE and the Maryland State Board of Education essentially said everything was fine in our schools, and the task force wasn't necessary.
I couldn't believe they took such a simplistic, head-in-the-sand approach to what I believed -- and still do believe -- was common-sense legislation.
After the latest series of incidents, I hope Superintendent Grasmick and MABE will join with me in supporting this much-needed bill.
The task force calls for a series of diverse representatives, including members of the General Assembly, the State Board of Education and MABE, four public schoolteachers from different geographic areas of the state, two parents of public school students, one representative from a nonpublic school, a representative from the Maryland State Police and a representative from the Maryland attorney general's office.
The mission of the Task Force on School Safety would be to evaluate and make recommendations regarding:
* methods to address the growing incidence of student violence in public and private schools.
* methods to provide a safe learning environment for students.
* the feasibility of using video surveillance cameras, metal detectors or other security devices to improve safety.
* ensuring the safety of students traveling to and from school during non-instructional hours.
* ensuring that school officials and public safety personnel respond to crises including acts and threats of violence by students, accidental injury and loss, natural disasters and exposure to hazardous or radiological substances.
I encourage everyone who supports my bill to contact Superintendent Grasmick and ask her to support the School Safety Task Force Bill that I will re-introduce in the upcoming General Assembly session. She can be reached at Office of the Superintendent, Maryland State Education Building, 200 W. Baltimore St., Baltimore, Md., 21201-2595 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Roy P. Dyson, a Democrat, is the state senator for District 29, representing Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.