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  1. #1
    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Arrow Schools, fires.....and the Baltimore FD

    BALTIMORE (AP) - Math teacher Eugene Chong Qui has an easy way
    to show just how bad the problem of students starting fires has
    become at his school.
    He simply points to the bright-red fire truck and the four
    firefighters stationed every day in front of Walbrook High School.
    A little more than two months into the school year, Walbrook has
    reported about 20 fires, compared with 24 during all of last year -
    most of them small, most thought to have been set by students.
    Across Baltimore, there have already been 65 fires at 13 schools,
    according to fire officials, compared with 168 last year.
    "I've never seen it this bad before," says Chong Qui, who's
    taught in the city school system for eight years. "I don't know
    what it stems from, but it's systemic. It really seems as if the
    students are so far gone out of their minds, they'll do anything
    for attention."
    In a school system that's struggling with a $58 million deficit,
    random violence, widespread apathy among students and frustration
    among teachers, some say the surge in fires is striking evidence of
    even deeper problems.
    Across the city, a pattern repeats itself: firefighters get a
    call about a fire in a trash can or locker, a bathroom or stairwell
    - the school is evacuated, and students stream outside; with so
    many people in one place, violence sometimes follows; school is
    usually canceled.
    So far, there have been 61 fire-related arrests, compared with
    144 last year, says city fire spokesman Kevin Cartwright. Besides
    Walbrook, four-person firefighter crews are now stationed at two
    other high schools.
    Baltimore's large public high schools have always struggled with
    fires - as have schools across the country. The difference this
    year, school and fire officials say, is one of frequency. On Oct.
    20 alone, firefighters got more than 10 calls from Baltimore
    schools about deliberately set fires.
    Part of the problem, says Bebe Verdery, education director at
    the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, is that officials,
    trying to fix the financial crisis, have increased class sizes - 40
    or more in some classrooms - and cut staff - more than 1,000 people
    last year, with 250 less teachers.
    "You have a net reduction of the adults who are able to
    supervise students," Verdery says. "When you combine that with
    the increased class sizes, the schools seem much less capable ...
    of controlling the violence and the fire-setting."
    Robert Balfanz, a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center
    for Social Organization of Schools, says staff cuts and the loss of
    counseling and extracurricular programs at schools in the city's
    poorest areas - the scenes of many of the fires - have exacerbated
    disciplinary problems.
    "The mismatch between the level of kids' needs and the level of
    resources available to help solve their problems leads to kids
    feeling lost," Balfanz says. "When kids feel lost and frustrated
    they act out."
    He says many poor students enter school without the academic
    skills needed to compete. When students also don't have chances to
    succeed in after-school programs, or get help through counseling,
    Balfanz says, officials can't "counteract the behavioral problems.
    It's like a contagion. There's not enough positive support to pull
    these kids back."
    Nationally, there were an estimated 2,700 fires in high schools
    and middle schools in 2002, the most recent data available. Arson
    was the leading cause, responsible for 52 percent of the fires,
    according to Gayle Kelch, a statistician at the National Fire Data
    Center, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    The center doesn't keep similar statistics on the city level,
    and information on fires is released in different ways at different
    city school districts. In Philadelphia, however, more than 230
    public school arsons were reported in 2001-2002, according to a
    published report.
    Christopher Swanson, a research associate at the Urban
    Institute, which studies city schools, says that, despite recent
    and intense media coverage, it's too early to determine whether
    Baltimore's fires are being set by a small number of "bad
    apples," or whether there's a bigger problem.
    Chong Qui says Walbrook's fires "probably started out with a
    handful of kids. But that handful has contaminated maybe three or
    four other handfuls who aren't strong enough to say no."
    Baltimore school officials have pleaded for help. And in late
    October, the city school board voted to spend $1.5 million from
    reserve funds to improve security and supervision at 15 "high
    need" schools. Officials there can now hire 37 more hall monitors
    and 34 more security officers.
    A spokeswoman for Mayor Martin O'Malley says the mayor believes
    the city must use a multi-pronged approach to address the problems
    underlying the vandalism.
    "There's no one solution - there's no one underlying cause,"
    spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said.
    Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan has also ordered the
    city and state to put an additional $30-45 million into Baltimore
    public schools this year. In August, ACLU lawyers convinced Kaplan
    that the system's plan to recover from its financial crisis hurt
    the quality of education available to students.
    But while the state appeals Kaplan's order, the money has gone
    unpaid.
    At Walbrook, the number of fires has dropped recently, Chong Qui
    says, although he expects them to start up again. Students have
    also started fighting more in hallways.
    "The behavior of the students doesn't change, just the way in
    which they express themselves - be it fires or fights," he says.
    "There's always going to be something for us to deal with."

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com


  2. #2
    Forum Member RspctFrmCalgary's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Scary. A potential tragedy in the making

    Stay safe out there.
    September 11th - Never Forget

    I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

    Sheri
    IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
    Honorary Flatlander

    RAY WAS HERE FIRST

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