June 3, 2008

Officials Meet For Summit On School Violence

Baltimore Sun June 3, 2008

CATONSVILLE, Md. -- Educators, community leaders, police and religious leaders met Tuesday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus for a summit on school safety.
Tuesday's gathering was organized by State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and Rep. Elijah Cummings to come up with ideas to combat school violence. It came just two months after a high school art teacher in Baltimore was attacked by a student. The attack was recorded on a camera phone.
About 300 guests were invited to attend the event, including national experts on urban teens and youth violence. The keynote speaker was Ivan Juzang, founder and president of MEE Productions, Inc., a group that looks at social, health and educational issues that impact low-income communities throughout the country.
Juzang said that Maryland school officials need to being "trying to understand the communications culture of young people and understanding what they're bring into the classroom setting. The more you understand that, the more you can anticipate the arguments or issues they're bringing into the classroom. It better prepares you to encounter and ultimately deal with issues that may arise."
Grasmick explained that one of their first goals is to actually establish a definition of school safety and let teachers and administrators know that they have options.
"Teachers need to feel like they have power to control this, with an understanding and a communication with these students," she said.
Cummings said parents are also an important component to ending school violence. He said there is only so much that can be legislated or created by policy to deal with the violence.
"This is not a problem that we can just limit to the school system. We've got to reach into our community and make sure that we -- all partners -- are part of trying to work with our young people," Cummings said.
"Parents need help. I do believe some need help in raising their children. As the police chief said, parents are 30, the grandparent is 45 and the great grandparent is 60. Some of these parents don't have parenting skills, and that will probably be a training workshop that needs to happen," said Marietta English of the Baltimore teacher's union.

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