A handful of students, parents and politicians gathered at an intersection in Dundalk on Monday night airing their complaints about the public school system, particularly surrounding recent acts of violence which have circulated through social media.
“We have experienced the shooting at Towson University, the loaded handgun found at Chesapeake High School, there was a stabbing inside Annapolis High School, and countless fights posted on social media,” former Dundalk resident and Patapsco High School graduate Darren Badillo, who is running to be the next Baltimore County Executive and organized the protest, said on Monday. He mentioned recent videos of fights at Dundalk High School and Dundalk Middle School, which surfaced online and made TV news.
Badillo said the fights “hit home” when his 7-year-old son came home from school and told him he had been punched in the face on a school bus, an incident which Badillo said he was not informed of until his son came home.
“When is enough, enough?” Badillo asked.
The Monday protest came about after Patapsco High School students held a walkout last Friday, where students brought up issues of reporting sexual assault and harassment, the removal of the school’s advisory period, transgender students’ safety and a general feeling of being unheard.
“At Patapsco, 200 of us came out to speak about the experiences that we had, and I hope that was a wake-up call,” Sara Elizabeth, a Patapsco student, said at the protest on Monday.
“Bullying has got to end,” Del. Ric Metzgar (R) said at the protest. “I’ve never seen so much violence, bullying, in school, ever.”
Metzgar said he believes schools should hold general assemblies and “go over the manual, page by page, not just sign the book” to enforce the rules.
Mary Taylor, an organizer of the Baltimore County Parent-Student Coalition, which was formed to push the county’s schools schools to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, said parents of students who experience bullying should fill out the county’s “Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation (BHI)” forms and return them to schools.
“This will force the schools to react and hopefully adjust their current practice to do better,” Taylor said.
Former Del. Pat McDonough, now running the conservative talk show and political action group SuperCitzenUSA, disagreed.
“You file that report in the school system, nothing will happen,” McDonough said, advising parents to instead file criminal complaints with police, saying that his group would take legal action if they were not followed up on.
Del. Bob Long (R) said violence, and sexual violence should be reported to student-resource officers “immediately.”
“The officer is required to report that,” he said, also adding the Center for School Safety’s hotline is another viable option. “It won’t be swept under the rug,” he said.
Badillo and Taylor later spoke on school violence at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday evening, urging the school board to encourage students to fill out BHI forms and commit to work on the issue.
The school system had scheduled a virtual town hall on student safety and positive school climates for Wednesday night after press time.