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Students, teachers worried about Baltimore City school safety

Posted at 11:27 PM, Sep 26, 2018

School is supposed to be a student's safe place, but for some Baltimore city students, from the morning start to the evening walk home, it can be stressful.


"When you walk out the house you pat yourself day, oh I got my keys, I got my phone, oh I forgot my knife.  I gotta go back and get my knife it's worrisome."


Kera Church says many students are packing, just to protect themselves.

She's a senior at Lake Clifton high school.


"They shut down the school a lot because there's a lot of crime around the area, so it gets you anxious because you're scared to walk home sometimes because you don't know if they're around the corner or still in the school."


Kera's fears aren't going unnoticed.


"We got 6 guns last school year through tips, through kids tells us hey this person has a weapon, that person has a weapon because our kids want to be safe.


Baltimore City Schools Police Chief Akil Hamm says he and his team of 103 officers have made progress, but there's still work to be done.



"Last year we did a tremendous job in lowering the arrest of students, which is also a collaborative effort with the policy that was just passed."


A policy that lowers arrests and the labeling young students who break the rules....but  some worry the school district's new policy does more to protect offenders than students or teachers who may be the victims.


"I am all in support of these children who need these other services, but what about our teachers who also need support.  What about the victims who need support.  I think that's probably what was missing in the new report."


Marietta English,  President of the Baltimore Teachers Union believes there needs to be a greater support network for at-risk youth, as well as for staff and students.

The trend of violence in schools scares her.


"Those are the kinds of things you wake up to every day and hope you don't hear this kind of thing happening in Baltimore when there's a neighborhood feud the children bring it to school."


I don't feel safe for the students, I don't feel safe for myself or my colleagues."


Corey Debnam has been a teacher in Baltimore City for 19 years.  He says the climate has changed.


"School has become a place for people to let their anger out.  It's like the trendy thing to do.  I'm not here to chase anyone down with a gun.  I'm gonna make sure everyone in my classroom is safe but I think that is totally out of order to place guns in the hands of staff members."


Arming teachers and staff isn't part of the plan for city schools, and right now neither is putting metal detectors in every building even though the union would like that.

Right now most high schools and some middle schools have them.


"I have to make my decisions based on the data from the crimes in the neighborhood, how many weapons we've recovered from different places, so it's something that we look at daily."


In the meantime, teachers, counselors, and school police are relying on relationships and technology to keep them safe.


"The only way that I'm able to get those weapons off of students is because they trust me."


"We take every situation very seriously with our students.  We don't take anything lightly.  If we hear about something on social media, that there may be a fight or a video may be posted or someone may say that I'm going to do this or do that, bring harm to the school.  We move right in on that.'


Kera Church doesn't hold out much hope about the future of school safety in Baltimore and beyond.

She's counting the days until graduation....and in the meantime, she says she'll remain vigilant.


"You worry about your surroundings.  You worry about everything and this is my first time in a long time actually having earphones in while I'm outside.  I always keep them turned down low, so I can hear any and everything around me."