First Click -- Maryland
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Friday, October 16, 2009:
Should Maryland Schools and Police Share Intel When Students Are Suspected Gang Members?
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) sees a virtual wall Maryland lawmakers have constructed around schools to protect the state's students. They're surrounded by drug-free zones with stiff penalties for dealers. There's a hard perimeter banning sex offenders. Teachers and coaches must undergo background checks to step into classrooms or on to ball fields. Even parents must sign in to visit their children.
The beating death in May of 14-year-old Christopher Jones, who according to his family, had mistakenly found himself caught between rival Crofton-area gangs, has exposed a deep flaw in the state's ability to protect students, Busch says, and hardened his resolve to do something potentially controversial to change it.
On Thursday, Busch met behind closed doors with nearly two dozen state lawmakers, police, prosecutors and one of Gov. Martin O'Malley's key public safety advisers to begin crafting a bill sure to become a focal point when lawmakers return to the capital early next year.
Busch wants police to share intelligence on suspected student gang members with teachers and school administrators. And he wants schools to act on the information. He wants teachers to conduct "interventions," confront parents, and enroll students in activities and programs to put them on a path that will lead away from the streets and potentially violent gang activity.
The problem? As Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said at a hearing in Annapolis last month: Gang membership, alone, is not a crime. So, having police identify to schools any students suspected of gang involvement -- and then having schools act on that information -- is potentially fraught with legal land mines and privacy concerns.
McCarthy was among those in attendance Thursday.
"Everybody acknowledges there's a problem and sees ways to solve it," Busch said, adding that he's confident there's sufficient flexibility in school privacy laws to allow the state to address any concerns and to get a useful dialogue going between schools and police.
"Gangs, by their very nature, are going to fester; they become growth industries within school systems," Busch said. "I think you have to be able to go out and identify that and find other alternatives for them besides participation in gangs."
MD Unions, Advocates: More Cuts Alone Can't Fix State Budget
Maryland's largest public employee union and advocates for the disabled, mentally ill and residents struggling with substance abuse rallied in Annapolis Thursday, demanding Gov. O'Malley and state lawmakers consider tax increases and dipping into the state's untouched rainy-day reserve fund rather than further cut state health programs or state employees' pay to balance the budget. Though O'Malley and leading Democrats in the General Assembly have offered no indication that they will support new taxes, the advocates cautioned that cuts alone will only further erode core state services.
PG Exec's Chief of Staff Stepping Down, Won't Rule Out State Senate Bid
Michael Herman, a close aide to County Executive Jack B. Johnson, will be leaving his post "to pursue private sector opportunities in both law and government relations," according to a statement from Johnson's office. But Herman, who has been rumored to be weighing a run for the state Senate, did not rule out the bid when talking with The Post's Jonathan Mummolo. "Well, you know ... I'm keeping my options open," he said.
Cardin Co-Sponsors Bill on Sentencing Disparity Between Crack and Cocaine
Maryland Senator Benjamin L. Cardin and eight other senators want to eliminate sentencing disparities between crimes involving crack and powder cocaine. Their bill, the "Fair Sentencing Act," would reserve the most severe sentencing penalties for violent traffickers.
Report: Governor's Office Contemplating Press Credentials for Bloggers
Len Lazarick, former State House bureau chief for the defunct Baltimore Examiner tells The Gazette's Alan Brody that he hasn't yet received a response following a request for a press credential for a new Internet-only publication, MarylandReporter.com. Brody writes that the request has spurred the O'Malley administration to consider developing formal protocols for online organizations and bloggers that want to cover state government.
Slots Commission Weighing Deadline for Arundel Mills
The fate of Maryland's largest planned slots casino may soon be settled, writes The Post's John Wagner. A state commission is considering setting a deadline for resolution of a local zoning dispute that has stalled a developer's plans at Arundel Mills mall, according to several sources.
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Aaron C. Davis
October 16, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click
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