March 27, 2023
Annapolis, US 59 F

Schools Launch #BePresent Initiative to Combat Violence, Strengthen Communities

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Bedell today invited parents, guardians, community members, business leaders, and school alumni to have a greater presence in schools as a way to enhance relationships with the greater community and help make school operations safer and more efficient.

“This is a call to our community that we need your help,” Dr. Bedell said in announcing the #BePresent initiative, a program through which students can feel more safe and supported, school administrators can have additional sets of eyes and ears in hallways and cafeterias, and community members can strengthen their connection with schools. “Schools are the heart of our communities and safer schools lead to stronger communities. That’s what we all want.”

In a news conference in which Board of Education President Joanna Tobin accompanied him, County Executive Steuart Pittman, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, and Fort Meade Garrison Commander Col. Michael Sapp, Dr. Bedell pointed to the rise in serious offenses and weapons possessions as evidence of the need for more involvement. Those numbers are on pace to double the totals from the 2021-2022 school year.

“Schools can’t do this alone,” Dr. Bedell said. “The community has a clear role to play in school safety, from awareness to support, and we want to partner with them. To be clear, we’re not looking for people to come in and administer discipline to our students. We are looking for people who are willing to spend time being around our students, getting to know them, and building positive rapport and relationships with them.”

Volunteers will work in collaboration with and at the direction of school administrators. They will go through the normal background check process, which the school system will pay for, Dr. Bedell said. Volunteers will not be present in classrooms or asked to deliver instruction.

Specific protocols for the program are still being finalized. Messages about how to become involved in the #BePresent program will be sent to families and posted publicly in the near future.

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