Local NAACP calls for stakeholder group to address school violence

The local NAACP has called on Wicomico County Public Schools to open better dialogue on addressing violence and reported cases of sexual assault in schools.

In early April, authorities say a Bennett High School student was charged with attempted rape of another student on school grounds which prompted Wicomico NAACP president Mary Ashanti to email superintendent Dr. John Fredericksen about possible solutions.

Ashanti tells 47ABC, she’s made it clear that her organization is not pointing fingers at the school board; however, they are hoping school officials are open to considering options like creating a stakeholders’ group.

We’re told the group could include but would not be limited to: students, educators, parents, faith leaders and groups like the NAACP.

“If the school system really investigated and found what the problem is and bring it the stakeholder’s meeting and said this is what we investigated, this is what we see as a problem…what are your ideas on how to resolve this problem?” explains Ashanti. “You have a broad base of knowledge.”

Superintendent of schools Dr. John Fredericksen tells 47ABC, a county-wide task force is already in place.

He says it has about two dozen members and was created this spring. The group reportedly reviews school safety, discipline, and climate. According to Dr. Fredericksen, it includes school leaders and parents, plus health departments and law enforcement.

“They’re going to be designing focus groups and surveys and other tools that we’ll use to try to use to get the information to make decisions on and also use those as a tool to get information out to folks so they know what we’re doing,” he tells us.

47ABC spoke to school official who says the NAACP was a part of a past meeting involving this existing task force; however, Mary Ashanti says they are not of this group nor have they ever been to a meeting.

Dr. Fredericksen also says the school board is working on developing a “No Means No” campaign and training program. We’re also told they are looking into bringing a consultant to better address school climate and discipline.

In terms of these ongoing measures, Ashanti says it’s a good start but it can’t end there.

“If you have a plan of how to keep them secure and safe, then most likely…you can prevent the rapes,” she told us Monday.

As for the investigation stemming from the alleged incident at Bennett High School, Dr. Fredericksen adds “We’re talking other parents, you know…what is the discipline situation like? What do you think would work better with your child or your faith community or people in your law enforcement jurisdiction?”

Dr. Fredericksen is set to retire from his position this summer.

As of July first, Dr. Donna Hanlin will be taking over. Both the NCAAP and the school board say they want a seamless transition so in terms of this ongoing discussion, the hope is to Doctor Hanlin included in as many future meetings as possible.

Categories: Education, Local News, Maryland