TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Alarmed staffers and parents participated in the first of three community discussions Monday night after an uptick in disruptions and violence at Baltimore County Schools.

Superintendent Darryl Williams called for the virtual meetings earlier this month, attributing the unprecedented level of unrest to pandemic trauma.

“The ongoing trauma experienced by families as a result of this global pandemic continues to manifest itself in an uptick of disruptive behaviors,” Williams said in a letter to parents on Dec. 3. “We are not alone, school systems across the nation are facing similar challenges.”

A freshman girl was airlifted to a hospital the day before Williams’ announcement after a locker room fight at Franklin High School. The second girl in the fight was charged with first-degree assault.

In October, videos from Dundalk High School circulated online, showing students fighting each other in the parking lot. School leaders held a similar town hall that month.

Parents peppered the meeting with questions and concerns, like what plans are for when weapons enter the building (police search the student with an administrator present) or when threats are made over social media (they are ‘thoroughly investigated’).

Police said they are currently investigating social media threats.

Dr. Kelly Rudd Safran, Manager of the Department of School Safety for the East Zone, said while the school works to mitigate violence, parents can prevent conflict bubbling up outside of school. 

“We can avoid so many different conflicts that may be happening in a school before it rises to the level where students want to engage in physical altercations,” Safran said. “We’re asking that you don’t encourage students to fight because you’re frustrated… monitor your child’s social media… let your children know how serious is to make these threats; how serious it is to make any threat to themselves or others or to property.”

A safer future lies with parents and staff working together, said Executive Director for Elementary Schools Eric Wilson.

“Our goal at the end of the day is to rebuild and restore that parent and school relationship.”

It is the first of three virtual town hall meetings – the next two are on Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m., and are open to the public.

Annie Rose Ramos