BALTIMORE — Baltimore City parents are frustrated and concerned about their child's safety, claiming the School District didn't handle a serious threat appropriately.
"If parents don’t do anything then it's why don’t you care? When parents are extremely active then you want to throw it off to someone else. I want answers," said Felicia McElveen, a parent and PTA President for Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School (Mervo).
On December 31st, Principal Jada Langston sent out an email to Mervo parents. The email reads:
"As you may already be aware, we learned of a potential threat on social media to our school. When events like this occur, I will strive to keep you informed. Please be assured that Mervo is committed to the safety and security of every student. The Baltimore Police Department is investigating, and the situation will be addressed. As a precautionary measure, additional security will be present at the school on January 2, and we will continue to assess security needs moving forward. All matters of safety and security are taken extremely seriously."
Many parents, still concerned, didn't send their children to school on Thursday.
"There was a huge lack of communication and it cannot go under the rug," McElveen said.
The school held an emergency meeting on January 2nd at 2 p.m. McElveen said in that meeting, "we were told that the student was expelled and would not be back at Mervo." However, the student was back in school on January 3, one day after being arrested by the Baltimore City Police Department.
"The child is back in class as if nothing happened," said McElveen.
WMAR-2 News reached out to Baltimore City Schools about the student returning to class and the spokesperson said the legal process simply didn't match with the Student Code of Conduct due process.
They then forwarded us an email sent to parents which reads:
"Recently, a student found to have violated the Student Code of Conduct temporarily returned to our campus. This access occurred primarily because the due process disciplinary activities for the student had not been finalized. Out of respect for that student’s privacy rights, we cannot share specifically about the events including that violation or the subsequent disciplinary activities. We learned the student’s presence led to concerns by members of our school community regarding the safety of our campus. We assure you that no students or staff were in danger, as our enhanced safety protocols were in place at that time. The administration was aware of the student’s presence in the building and closely monitored that student’s activities.”
"Threatening to shoot up a school is a more than a cause of disturbance in a classroom," said T'Nesha Jones, one of the concerned Mervo parents. "A lot of the answers of how are they keeping our students safe from here on out weren’t really answered and what was being done to the student that was a threat. There's a lack of transparency with the safety of our students here at Mervo after the threat that was made."
Most parents, like Jones, couldn't attend the emergency meeting on January 2 so they requested a second one, held on January 9. At that meeting, one of the school police officers was supposed to be there, but didn't show up.
The spokesperson for the school district stated the officer had a medical issue and couldn't come.
"I'm sure emergencies do come up but there should be someone in the chain of command that could have stepped in his place, you just don’t not show up and answer parent questions about our kids," said Jones.
Wednesday was the regular scheduled PTA meeting where parents discussed these safety concerns and plans on moving forward.
"We don’t know a solution. We would like to come together and brainstorm some possible possibilities that we can put in place to try and help keep the students safe," said Jones.
Jones and McElveen talked about the need for a policy change.
Several students missed class on Thursday and Friday, the week of the threat. The school district is not penalizing students for missing Thursday but are penalizing students if they missed Friday classes.
McElveen said she's fighting for the students to get credit back for Friday because she said there was a lack of communication.
The school district states they stand by their communication since they sent out robo calls and emails to parents.