After a shooting outside a Baltimore high school left two teenagers wounded, school officials asked residents for help in ending a wave of arson and violence that has swept city schools, the Baltimore Sun reports. School board members received word of the shooting as they held a closed-door meeting yesterday afternoon to develop an emergency plan to respond to the recent disturbances. More than 40 fires have been set at 14 city schools since the start of the academic year; police have used Mace or similar substances to break up brawls at two schools.
Officials plan to shorten lunch periods – when many fires have been set – and shift them to later in the day, to give fire starters a smaller window of opportunity. Maxine Holmes, an official with the City Union of Baltimore, which represents the system’s 70 police officers, was skeptical of a plan to staff schools with more security guards, who cannot arrest students. Holmes said the system would be better off beefing up the school police department with the money it is spending on security contracts. The union says the school system needs about 113 officers to be fully staffed. The guards “have absolutely no powers at all,” Holmes said. “They can do absolutely nothing but tell the kids to move along.” Officials said they cannot stop violence that spills into schools from surrounding communities without the aid of parents, business owners, churches, and fraternal organizations. They asked for help ranging from parent volunteers who can field calls in school offices to businesses that can donate cell phones to help principals communicate during crises.