BCPS Responds to Stemmers Run Gun Incident Criticism

At the scene, parents of students at the Essex school complained the school system wasn't giving them enough information.

Following the second gun incident of the school year—which is less than three weeks old, parents of Stemmers Run Middle School students were critical of school communications.

On Tuesday, a 13-year-old eighth grade boy in a classroom at the Essex school, and threatened his teacher and classmates. Baltimore County police said the teacher was able to disarm the student and no one was injured.

"I heard what had happened on the news. The principal didn't give us any information, so that was a little nerve-wracking," said parent April Vines, who spoke with Patch reporter Emily Kimball . "It's just too much to know that anything could happen. School's not as safe as it used to be, and I can't have my daughter in there without knowing what's going on."

Superintendent S. Dallas Dance has said on multiple occassions that transparent communications is important to his administration.

Mychael Dickerson, the school system's chief of communications, said officials were cautious in disseminating information on the Stemmers Run incident.

"Our priority was making sure we reached out to the parents of the students in the classroom," Dickerson said. 

He said of the students in the classroom afterwards, and a phone message was also sent out through the school system's emergency alert line. Additionally, a letter was posted on the Baltimore County Public Schools website and later sent home with Stemmers Run students.

However, the communications department opted not to use its social media channels to share information about the incident. Last week, a school system spokesman said the department was looking into efforts following the late-August and a closure at Dumbarton Middle School.

"We want to make sure accurate information is getting out there," Dickerson said."We don't want to put out short spurts of information. That would raise more questions than answers."

He noted that the system's Facebook and Twitter accounts are typically used "for lack of a better term, 'positive news.'"

The system also did not send out a news release about the Stemmers Run incident. Dickerson said the case didn't warrant one because it was more school specific and did not necessarily affect other county schools.

"Our focus was the Stemmers Run community," he said.

During a Tuesday afternoon interview, Dickerson was unaware that a press release was also not sent out for the Perry Hall incident. The day of the shooting was his first on the job.

He pointed out that the communications department hadn't fully debriefed from the Perry Hall shooting when the Stemmers Run incident occurred.

"We have a lot to learn now from both [incidents]," he said.

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Jimmy September 14, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Sure, they gave the SRO's a metal detector...but they can't use them. Police need Probable Cause to search anybody, including a student. At that point, why not just do a pat down? It's just as thorough and cost alot less.
Jim Jones September 17, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Jimmy, police do not need probable cause to use a metal detector on anyone. Security guards at stadiums use them. Yes, they need probable cause, or reasonable articulable suspicion to dig in one's pockets or property, but not to scan them with a metal detector or to perform a simple pat down on exterior for weapons. As far as why not perform pat downs?? Weapons can be hidden in natural voids of the body(butt crack, etc.) Not to mention today's baggy clothing, or the multiple layers of clothing some kids wear these days would make it very easy for an officer to possible miss a weapon, expecially a small knife.
moe green September 17, 2012 at 06:14 PM
A police officer cannot stop and search you without probable cause. In other words, if you're not legally under arrest, an officer of the law is not permitted to frisk you. However, probable cause can come in many forms. For example, if an officer received an anonymous tip that you were carrying a gun, they have the right to frisk you and confiscate the weapon. But, if the officer frisks you and feels something soft, that couldn't possibly be a gun, they have no right to seize the item, whether legal or illegal.
FIFA September 17, 2012 at 06:38 PM
moe, what is the name of the NYPD's program? Stop and Frisk? http://www.ccrjustice.org/stopandfrisk
moe green September 17, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Took me along time to remember the supreme court case. 1968 Terry v Ohio


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