Over 18,000 parents from Prince George’s County, Maryland, schools showed up for a virtual school town hall on Tuesday night to discuss student safety, a week after a shooting sent a teen to the hospital.
“I want to extend a heartfelt wish for a speedy recovery of the student who was injured,” said Prince George’s County CEO Monica Goldson at the start of the town hall.
Goldson was referring to a Dec. 8 shooting at Suitland High School that hospitalized a 14-year-old. Another 14-year-old student at the school was arrested in connection with the shooting.
“There is no tolerance for guns, knives or any weapon on school premises,” Goldson said. “Any student found in possession of a weapon will face disciplinary actions up to expulsion.”
Goldson told parents she would add additional money for security staff in the upcoming budget. The school system might also look for technological advances to improve security.
“We are actually looking at more advanced artificial intelligence,” said Goldson.
She said a committee has been formed to review different AI security options, and recommendations are expected to be made in January.
But beyond weapons at school, parents also voiced concerns about bullying and attacks on students.
“My son was assaulted and had to be transferred to the hospital on Friday,” said one mother. “My child was assaulted by fellow students that he doesn’t know, and now my child’s safety is a question … the county let my child down.”
She said he is transferring to another school.
Another mother described a fight at a bus stop, when one student ripped the face mask of another and then kicked him.
“He shouldn’t be attacked for wearing a mask,” said the mother. “Maybe we need to institute amongst the children, some sort of de-escalation, type of training.”
Gary Cunningham, director of safety and security services for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said the district needs parents’ help to curb violence.
“What we’re finding is a lot of these issues are starting within the community between young people, and they’re bringing those problems to school,” Cunningham told parents. “If you see something, say something, pay attention what your child is doing.”
The school system reminded parents and students that bullying and weapons violations can be reported through their website or mobile app.