SALISBURY, Md. – A Wicomico County Board of Education meeting concluded on Tuesday evening, following passionate public testimony concerning a series of violent incidents in local schools.
Parents and educators converged at the packed meeting to voice their anxieties, particularly focusing on Bennett Middle School, which has become the epicenter of these violent occurrences.
Allison Veals, fighting back tears, recounted how her son was attacked last month by a 13-year-old classmate at Bennett Middle School.
“If the administration at Bennett Middle had known this child had violent tendencies, perhaps my son and his teachers wouldn’t have become his next victims,” she said.
Veals said that prior knowledge of the suspect’s violent tendencies might have prevented the assault. That incident in October was among at least three recent violent assaults at Bennett Middle School, including last Friday where a 7th grader allegedly attacked someone with a pair of scissors.
In his address before the public comments, Superintendent Dr. Micah Stauffer described these assaults as “isolated incidents”, a characterization that drew criticism from some attendees. Keith Newton, whose wife is a Bennett Middle teacher, challenged the Superintendent.
“I would like to Dr. Stauffer correct you. Your statement that these incidents were isolated, when you have one a year they’re isolated. We’re having one a week,” Newton said.
Board member John Palmer noted that the District’s hands are died when it comes to admitting troubled students. “We may not want them in here but we are bound by law to put them in here,” he said.
Board member Susan Beauchamp also pointed to two Maryland laws that she says prevents schools and law enforcement from taking action. Notably, the Juvenile Restoration Act, which restricts police from charging children under 13 with most crimes. Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes previously said that law prevented as 12-year-old from being charged with a Bennett Middle School assault in October.