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Baltimore County middle schools seeing "uptick" in disruptive behavior

Baltimore County Public Schools
Posted at 1:25 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 11:53:57-05

Baltimore County Public Schools will hold a public meeting Dec. 1 on middle-school safety, as the school system continues to try to address widespread public safety concerns.

BCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told WMAR:

"That's where we're really seeing the uptick in disruptive student behaviors, and in other grade levels, we're actually not seeing an increase in that. So we really want to take a deeper look as to what may be happening at the middle school level, and that's why we're bringing in an expert, a school psychologist and a consultant with the Maryland Center for School Safety, and she's really going to dive into adolescent behaviors, data trends, and provide some tips and resources for building positive partnerships for student support in middle schools."

The "Community Conversation on Safe and Supportive Environments" will feature BCPS leaders and a Maryland Safe Schools psychologist to discuss local/national trends, adolescent behaviors, and tips for building positive partnerships. It will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology (938 York Road in Towson) as well as virtually at The BCPS YouTube channel [youtube.com].

The meeting follows up on Superintendent Darryl Williams' Oct. 25 letter addressing school safety, saying BCPS has made "significant investments in proactive safety measures this year," and promising quarterly data on discipline and future town halls/community conversations.

The school year began with reports of multiple fights, and BCPS held virtual town halls last month addressing elementary-school and high-school problems. Parents also held a rally to push for more discipline and transparency about the violence.

Williams' letter said student fights and other aggressive behaviors are down 11 percent overall from the same time last year, with middle school incidents down 8 percent. The letter did note, however:

"Our analysis of middle school data has revealed wide variability in the implementation of consequences. Central office staff will continue to review the data and provide support and feedback to schools. Sixth grade is the only grade in BCPS that is experiencing an increase in more aggressive behaviors this year compared to the same time last year. Following middle school, we are seeing indications that ninth and tenth grades also require intense focus, confirming that students in transition years need differentiated support and intervention."

Onijala noted that BCPS' issues are similar to those nationwide.

"What we're seeing in Baltimore County is very similar to what other school districts are seeing across the nation. Our question really is, why then at the middle school level? What kind of happens in that transition period for students? Where can we plug in some additional supports and resources, help students understand proper conflict resolution, how to talk to trusted adults when they may be having issues, so that we're not seeing some of these aggressive behaviors and fights and other disruptive behaviors," she said. "Some of these issues that we're seeing are community incidents that are spilling over to the schoolhouse, and so, we need parents to truly be partners in this work."