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LIVE BLOG: Perry Hall High Holds Community Meeting, Briefing After Shooting

Principal George Roberts spoke to parents and community members Tuesday night.

Updates were recorded live during the community meeting at Perry Hall High School, held in the auditorium at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

6 p.m.

Principal George Roberts stood before the audience of parents and community members.

Attendance on the day following the shooting exceeded 98 percent, Roberts said.

Daniel is improving and his father is requesting privacy.

Roberts said he is working on the creation of a special fund for Daniel Bowory at Rosedale Federal and a special homecoming is planned.

Roberts updated the community on Robert Gladden's indictment of attempted murder.

Roberts said "the teachers at PHHS, simply put, are the best teachers anywhere." 

Teachers set the right example. "Words will never express how grateful and proud I am of the staff at Perry Hall High School."

He said that first responders came "out of thin air" to help.

He also commended crises counselors, about 12 who offered daily support at the school. Support will remain until they are no longer needed.

Roberts said parents and staff members will work to monitor social media and report any suspicious activity.

6:15 p.m.

A parent said he was concerned that hundreds of students were immediately let out of the cafeteria after the shooting, with attendance being taken. He picked his daughter up and immeditaley took her home, but there was no record. 

Roberts said there was a staff member overlooking the area, but the pressing need was to get students out of the area.

Another community member commended the staff on handling the emergency, but asked why students were not allowed to call or text their parents.

Roberts said it's a matter of securing the area and if there were another shooter in the school, it's important to keep everyone quiet and secure in terms of communication.

He said he knew that parents and kids text, but safety is first. "Texting has its positive, but we don't want the noise and commotion."

6:20 p.m.

A woman was concerned about her daughter being bullied and said her daughter needs the bullying to stop so she can focus.

Roberts said that reporting of bullying is going to improve and that's why he's here, holding the meeting. He asked the woman to call him tomorrow so they can go through the case.

Another parents commended the staff on handling the situation. He said he has filled out bullying reports but nothing has been done.

Roberts said he will do all he can.

6:25 p.m.

Superintendant S. Dallas Dance said safety is his No. 1 priority, and there is a heightened sensitivity toward that.

"Any situation that comes to our attention, we take it seriously," Dance said.

Dance commended the school staff.

"Leadership is essential," he said.

The website has been updated to give better access to parents who have bullying and safety concerns.

Dance also recognized members of the Baltimore County schools board.

6:28 p.m.

A parent said that Baltimore City schools have metal detectors. She asked if that is planned for Baltimore County schools.

Roberts said that is a community decision and will be looked at in the coming weeks.

"It's not something we're going to off-handedly dismiss, but it is something we are going to look into," Roberts said.

6:29 p.m.

A parent asked about access for his daughter to a counselor.

Roberts said it will be ongoing, and guidance counselors will be the point people, but additional crisis counselors will come in as needed.

Roberts said if parent notices anything odd about their child, they can call the school, and guidance will meet with the students.

Roberts said some teachers have started crying while teaching.

6:31 p.m.

A parent said that leadership from Roberts and Assistant Principal Stephen Arnold helped lay a framework for staff members to do the right thing.

The parent complained about media being a presence at the school and having access to children. She asked how long it will go on.

Roberts said they will do their best to shield the children.

6:35 p.m.

A parent asked if there was a way to help parents understand and recognize any signs of stress in a child's life.

Roberts said resources have been posted on the school website, and parents should be aware of their own coping process.

6:38 p.m.

A parents asked why it took so long to have a community meeting and why a meeting wasn't held before students went back home.

Roberts said that because it was a shared experience, students needed to come back together and it was important to regain normalcy as soon as possible, in an environment where they could feel safe and secure.

6:41 p.m.

A man asked about prevention and said the student handbook is not strong enough when it comes to discipline, and the handbook does not turn to the police soon enough when a child brings a weapon or creates a problem during school.

Roberts said the handbook may need adjusting, but day-to-day school activity requires trust between students and teachers. Roberts said students are more aware of each other and want to report things to police and teachers. That "don't snitch stuff" is not for us. Roberts said there are programs in place for teachers and students and parents to report suspicious anything.

The best prevention is building stronger relationships, Roberts said, and teachers are flexible about bringing in police to handle situations.

The parent asked if an on-duty police officer is brought on the scene immediately if, for example, an incendiary device is found on a student.

Roberts said police would be brought on the scene immediately in that case.

6:47 p.m.

A man said the first he knew that his daughter was taken out of school was when he saw her being pushed into an ambulance on the Internet.

Roberts said it is on the top of his list is handling that situation.

He asked if students can be trained to handle threats.

Roberts said a speaker is coming in, who came in last year, a motivational speaker who will speak about sharing a message about speaking up if something suspicious happens.

6:53 p.m.

A parent has a freshman at the school, and said she knew that there were signs of physical harm on the body of Robert Gladden Jr. She said that Gladden was "crying out" for help.

She said that she was able to just walk into school without anyone asking, without showing ID. She was worried that no metal detector or wand was at the entrance, and there seemed to be no security plan.

"It may have never happened here, but it happened," she said.

She said she was not told soon enough, and news found out sooner.

She said the voicemail should have come earlier.

Roberts said the county will work to better get information to parents, but they needed to make sure all students were safe before they called parents.

Roberts said information was unclear and limited, and they did not have specific information right away. He didn't want to raise more alarm with false information. "It's a delicate balancing act ... we wanted to really make sure it had information to help you find your child," he said.

7 p.m.

A parent said her kids and friends were not surprised by who the shooter turned out to be, that staff should have known he was a "red flag." She said more education is needed, and that would do more than metal detectors.

"Just letting us know" is crucial, Roberts said. He said teachers don't follow all of the kids on Twitter and Facebook. He said he tells his children to tell an adult. "It's not cool, it's no ok, it's not no big deal. It comes down to letting someone know," he said. "In an age of Twitter and Facebook, it comes down to having a conversation ... building those relationships."

7:04 p.m.

A parent said she is concerned about the evacuation plan and why some students from the cafeteria were allowed into a trailer. She asked how the teacher knew that a second shooter was not allowed into a trailer.

Roberts said that was an appropriate response because during a lockdown, children are pulled into the nearest classroom.

The parent said she was still concerned about another shooter being pulled into a classroom. She was receiving texts from her son that concerned her.

7:07 p.m.

Some parents and community members began leaving the auditorium, as it continued past 7 p.m.

A parent was concerned about media access to kids being allowed to talk to media following the attack.

A man said there was a knife fight outside of the school about a year ago after a basketball game. He said that sporting events also need more security. The parent called for a metal detector.

Roberts said parents will be allowed to air their concerns as the school makes assessments. "I lead this school, but it's your school. It's the center of the community," he said.

He said they're going to consider data showing whether or not a metal detector works.

A former Columbine principal is going to speak to the staff and has spoken to Roberts. They spoke for an hour about the emotional journey that schools are going through.

"I'm open to that discussion," Roberts said."We'll see what's the best thig for the community."

7:13 p.m.

A parent asked about security and what security was in place at the bathrooms on the day of the shooting.

Two teachers, male and female, were monitoring bathrooms, standing outside, Roberts said. 

Roberts said it hasn't changed, but officers are now watching it more closely.

The parent asked if there are more teachers on duty in the caferteria and bathrooms.

Roberts said he is limited because there are only so many teachers on duty.

Roberts said he and other staffers are taking a more active role.

7:17 p.m.

A parent said that she is tired of parents blaming other parents. "It starts with us!" She received applause. "I assume that most of us are on the PSTA and attend sports ... but where are the rest of the parents ... you need to check Facebook and make a call. ... if a parent has a problem picking up the phone and calling ... we need to take from this and get more involved with our kids."

7:20 p.m.

A parent said she has positives about Baltimore County, and she agrees with last parent who encouraged parents to be more proactive.

"There is a tone that when you drop them off at the beginning of the day that they are no longer your child. ... They are our children. Parents should be able to attend meeting in the next 30 days... we've been a civil group .... there are so few parents who step up to the plate ... the administrators need to hear you ... and my husband and I can't be the only people who care."

7:22 p.m.

A woman said her child is afraid of school and is a freshman. She said she works in a building that has security and a metal detector. She said she is pro-metal detector. He said her child does not trust anyone yet.

She asked what exactly do staffers do to handle problem kids who can make a physiological assessment.

She praised the school, but said there is a sense of students being better than each other which leads to bullying.

Roberts said that a social worker and school physcologist is available in the building to make assessments.

Roberts said that no staffers were notified about Gladden's Facebook post before the school day. Roberts said the staff now has access to Facebook.

She said she is also concerned about smoking on Ebenezer Road and ganging up near the school.

Roberts said they encourage respect but it is a public road under the purview of police.

7:30 p.m.

More parents left the meeting.

A parent said they only live in the Perry Hall area so she can attend this school. After her daughter graduates they will leave the area.

She said she is military and safety is first. She said the children were first and evacuation was most important.

"We could have been going to funeral, a whole lot of funerals ... I had to come up here and remind us, it's excellent ... we are the parents in this. ... I was grateful to see on FOX 45 to know to get my kid."

7:33 p.m.

A parent said drugs in classrooms is also a problem. She said drug dogs and bomb dogs could also be a possibility.

7:34 p.m.

Her child said that Gladden has been suspended multiple times and was sent to a special program. She said that school staffers need to better react, and provide better programs for future security.

7:35 p.m.

A parent talked about his daughter's reaction.

Roberts said it's going to be a long road for Jesse Wasmer, and his recovery from this.

7:36 p.m.

A parent said there needs to be more teachers at the doors, asking who is entering. She said she once snuck in and wasn't stopped. The parent said people should be buzzed in and there should be metal detectors.

Roberts said kids are swiped in with cards.

Roberts said doors are locked after students are allowed to get in for the day.

Roberts said the number of adults on staff to help secure the building is limited.

7:41 p.m.

A parent asked about her son's reaction, and how her son was allowed to run out of the cafeteria and allowed inside of a trailer. She thanked staffers.

7:43 p.m.

A parent said that metal detectors are not a cure-all. She said that if people want to do bad things, they'll do it, and metal detectors are not the solution.

7:44 p.m.

A parent with a child in the cafeteria said there is only so much that can be done to protect children. She praised the school. She said the staff did all they could. She asked how often a red code drill is practiced.

Roberts said code red drills are twice a year and fire drills are once a month, as well as severe weather drill. Lock down drills are also planned twice a year.

She asked about a followup meeting.

Roberts said his focus is going through community concerns, but he'd rather tha concerned parents just call, instead of have another meeting.

"We need an outcome, not just great ideas," the parent said.

She said she wanted to know what the outcome and closure is going to be.

Roberts encouraged attendance at the monthly Principal's Forums meetings in the library.

He said meetings already exist.

7:49 p.m.

A woman said Gladden showed red flags in elementary school, and information should have been shared.

Roberts said records were passed, and they followed procedures for a problem student. He said students and parents have rights and they work within those rights, and not make anyone guilty before proven innocent.

She asked how Gladden was ever allowed back in school. She said her son was afraid that Gladden woud get off bail and come back to school. 

7:54 p.m.

A parent asked about position cuts and asked if more staff could be hired.

Roberts said they would be busy teaching and may not be available to patrol the school.

A parent said smaller class sizes could solve the problem.

7:55 p.m.

More parents exited the auditorium.

7:56 p.m.

Roberts said overwhelmed teachers should come to him and have a conversation about it.

More staff development is planned, Roberts said. He has hired extra substitutes to address those concerns, so they can take breaks. 

Roberts said the most valuable commodity a teacher has is time.

Roberts said he has spoken to his wife, and cried with his wife, but everyone handles it differently. He said there are 135 teachers.

8 p.m.

A parent said she is unsure where to go to meet her daughter if this happens again.

Roberts said it was a unique situation and so the regular evacuation plan had to be adjusted. Kids would typically be split and sent to a secure location with a teacher.

Roberts said more parents need to know their children's schedule, and know which class they're in.

The parent said she needs to know exactly where to find her child.

Roberts said they are looking at where to put the children and to improve communication.

8:04 p.m.

A parent said her child was in the cafeteria. She said problems in the caferteria are ongoing, and students are popping chip bags like it's a gunshot.

Roberts said that will be addressed.

The parent said parents should be notified if the child is being held as a witness.

Roberts said police will look into that.

The parent said another child helped her daughter off the floor who was being trampled, and she was very grateful.

8:08 p.m.

A woman said she is a substitute and they have never been trained in how to help students. She said that substitutes need better crisis training.

She said that Gladden's possession of alcohol is a bigger issue and needs to be addressed.

8:10 p.m.

A woman praised the school for a teacher with a bull horn who directed students. She told students to go home.

She critized the media for its coverage.

8:12 p.m.

A senior student thanked everyone, thanked parents, other students. She said the support level has been good. She wanted to know if there was any way that as a senior, she could have helped freshman, or participated in an open discussion.

Roberts said that was up to teachers to decide to do that, but he wanted to leave some things to trained counselors.

Roberts said that group and individual counseling was available to students and teachers.

8:18 p.m.

Roberts thanked parents and community members for attending the meeting.

"This is part of the healing process ... my positon is every view is valued ... we can never place judgement on how someone feels ..."

He said that in April 2007, he was called in and told he was transferring to PHHS. He said the community was special and valued.

"I get up every day and look forward to coming here ... there are thousands who dread goign to work ... this past week, I look forward to it even more ... we are going to get through this together ... I hate to lose and I'm not going to let this rule us. ... you have given boatloads of support ... you'll never know what your emails have meant ... we are lucky to be in this community. "

Jackie McTear September 05, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I wasn't able to attend, but sounds like it was a good meeting. My big question would have been, why weren't we told ahead of time where our children would be brought? Mr. Roberts said this was an unusual situation, but still didn't discuss where they would be normally - what is their current evacuation plan?
VWK September 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I have nothing be praises to the Perry Hall High School staff, but I was very disappointed to hear how the media treated the students that day. Someone at the meeting brought that up for discussion. Apparently they were sticking microphones and cameras in the faces of students who were visibly distraught. It almost sounded like harrassment to me. Shame on all of them! I know they have to report the news, but isn't that taking things too far?

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