Friday, April 27, 2018

Dress Code and Guns – your thoughts?

There is no more difficult set of rules to enforce at school, especially the high school, than dress code.  No matter what might be in writing, there is still much judgement involved and when the principal’s judgement doesn’t match that of the parent, we have conflict.
In light of recent events around the country there is increased attention to our student code of conduct and, more specifically, the depiction of weapons.  Here in Calvert County Schools, we have not permitted the wearing of clothing with graphics that depict weapons.  Exceptions are made for certain versions of our school mascots and NJROTC uniforms.

The relevant language from our Student Code of Conduct:
·         Garments which depict violence, sex, vulgarity or other inappropriate scenes or wording or that advertise tobacco, alcohol or drug-related products are not permitted.
·         Clothing and/or tattoos shall not convey symbols or messages generally accepted to promote intolerance, hate, racial slurs, sexual harassment or gang affiliation. 
No doubt, weapons shown in certain contexts represent violence.  One might argue that a shirt with a picture of an assault rifle represents violence.
But what about popular comic book figures?  Often a T-shirt with an image from a recent animated feature might depict weapons and violence.
What about a shirt with the name and logo of a popular dining establishment? 
  • The Musket Room
  • The Brass Cannon
  • Shotgun Bar and Grill
There are also questions of free speech.  A shirt advocating the right for citizens to keep and bear arms by itself should be no problem, but what if it has a gun or multiple guns in the graphic?
What about an axe, bow and arrow, sword or bowie knife?  A silhouette of a hunter?
Should each and every image with a weapon be banned because it represents violence in one form or another?
Our Students’ Rights, Responsibilities and Code of Conduct is up for review and the Calvert County Board of Education invites your feedback on this and any other issues within it by May 23, 2018.  You can read the whole document here:
You may post comments to this blog or email them to the Board’s Assistant, Karen Maxey .

Monday, March 26, 2018

Safety Advocates in Calvert County Schools

Today we have a guest writer for this blog space.  Tracy McGuire, Board of Education President, addresses the issue of arming Safety Advocates in Calvert County Schools. 

         Our community is deeply concerned, as are we, about student safety. In these stressful and uncertain times, Board members have noted some confusion in the community regarding the roles and responsibilities for Safety Advocates and School Resource Officers (SROs), known as Liaison Officers in our school system.

A Safety Advocate is a Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS) employee who provides a
proactive means of meeting the needs of the students, staff, and community. Employing a wealth of professional expertise, the Safety Advocate serves as a student advocate and advisor. Rather than punish or suspend students, the Safety Advocate provides support and counsel to the total school community.  Additionally, the Safety Advocate assists the staff and administration in maintaining a safe and orderly school environment that best facilitates academic achievement.

The Safety Advocate’s role is to help students make good choices and avoid activities that may result in harming themselves or others or criminal activity that might lead to arrest. Typically, Safety Advocates are retired law enforcement officers. Each high school has two full-time safety advocates. The six middle schools are served by three safety advocates.

We continue to work with the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office to provide a Liaison Officer to each of our high schools The Liaison Officers are armed deputies employed by the Sheriff’s
Office. These officers also serve the elementary and middle schools in their high school’s feeder
pattern. A supervisor, also employed by the Sheriff’s Office, provides support where needed.

The Board has also been asked what we are doing to keep students safe. The Board is working with the Board of County Commissioners to fund school construction projects to make buildings more difficult to access. We are providing additional training to staff on responding to an active shooter. In consultation with the Sheriff’s Office, we are exploring additional law enforcement supports in schools. CCPS also coordinates with the Health Department to provide mental health services to students in schools. At the State level, the Board, through the Maryland Associations of Boards of Education, is advocating for amendments to improve legislation to provide Maryland State Police resources to schools, as well as other safety measures.

As we, as a community, consider what is the next best thing we can do to keep our children safe in school, the fact is most gun deaths are accidental shootings or suicide. A majority of the Board believes more guns on school property increase those risks and thus do not support arming CCPS employees.

The Board will continue to consider how best to keep children in school safe, unafraid, welcome, and ready to learn.

Tracy McGuire, President, Calvert County Board of Education

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Black History in Calvert County

There was a great story in the Calvert Recorder last week about Joyce Freeland, local past President of the NAACP.   It outlines her life growing up poor on a farm in Calvert County, attending segregated schools, seeking treatment in a segregated hospital, leaving for a while, then returning to her home community.   Joyce Freeland is active in the Closing the Gap Coalition and is also a frequent substitute teacher for us.  We sure appreciate her continued service to the schools. 

The month of February is Black History Month - designated as a time to recognize the contributions of African Americans to American History.   The organization which would became known as the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History inaugurated the first formal acknowledgement of African-Americans' place in U.S. history by designating the week that included February 12 as "Negro History Week" in 1926.    It was first acknowledged at the national level by President Gerald Ford.  President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan followed suit and in 1986 Congress passed legislation declaring February as Black History month and called for a Presidential Proclamation in support. 

It is also important to note that Canada also celebrates in February.  The United Kingdom and The Netherlands have the similar events in October.

As I stand here in my office in a building that was once the Brooks School – the high school for African American students in Calvert County, I’m reflecting on the stories that have been shared to me by those with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years.  Especially those that were a part of the transition to integrated schools.  The last segregated class of the William Sampson Brooks High School was 1966.   The community where we live managed to keep children separated and educated by color a full 12 years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.  Why did it take so long?  I need to hear more stories from those who went to school here.

Kevin Howard, Supervisor of Human Resources and a transplant like me, just shared with me a book titled African Americans of Calvert County by William Poe.  I’ve ordered my own copy, but the initial description of the book indicates that Calvert County is home to one of the oldest African American communities in the United States - since back in the 17th Century.  At one time, 60% of the county population was African American.    Seems like it should be required reading for someone like me. 

I look forward to reading more of this planned series in the Calvert Recorder.  All of us as humans are walking story books.  I want to hear their stories.  I want to better understand my adopted home.