School Safety

March 03, 2004 1 min read

Security Debate

Ballou High School in Washington is getting more police officers, metal detectors, and security cameras—whether the District of Columbia schools chief likes it or not.

There’s been a display of tempers recently in the nation’s capital as the mayor’s office, school officials, and parents square off on the persistent debate over what can make dangerous schools safer.

But the mayor’s office is in no mood to argue after two shooting deaths at city schools this academic year.

The more recent shooting took place in Ballou High on Feb. 2 and claimed the life of a celebrated junior football player. That incident followed the Oct. 30 slaying of another high school football player, 16, gunned down just outside the door of Anacostia High School after an afternoon homecoming dance.

In the immediate wake of the Ballou tragedy, Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced a plan for beefing up security in that building, with other schools to eventually follow.

Ballou High will go from having two armed officers from the Metropolitan Police Department to six. And an unarmed security detail provided by a private contractor will double its presence at the school from 12 to 24 guards, one of them an armed investigator.

Those are just a few of the new measures outlined in a nearly 40-page draft plan by the mayor’s office and the police department.

Interim Superintendent Elfreda W. Massie, who plans to step down from her position in April, slammed the mayor’s response as a “Band- Aid approach.”

“To add to an education environment additional police officers who carry weapons and have the authority to arrest students does not address the problems that cause violence in our communities, neighborhoods, and schools,” the head of the 65,000-student district said in a statement. “Our schools are not beats and our students are not criminals.”

Tony Bullock, a spokesman for Mayor Williams, dismissed Ms. Massie’s remarks.

“She says, ‘Our children aren’t criminals'—well, excuse me for suggesting that some of them might be,” he said. “Shooting someone to death is an act most people would consider criminal.

“We’re going ahead with [this plan],” Mr. Bullock added, “regardless of the opinion of the outgoing superintendent.”

Darcia Harris Bowman