The Oakland Mills Pause: An Editorical View on the Recent Events at OM

That pause always gets to you. Every single student who has attended Oakland Mills knows the disparaging feeling when you have just told someone where you go to school and their breath catches, as all the stereotypes and preconceived views rush into their head, before the words, “well how do YOU like it” comes out. We have all tried to correct that predetermined view of Oakland Mills that has formed in people’s minds for years, trying to brag about how great the boys soccer team is, or explain how amazing WBAL is going to be in the coming year. Most likely this person has never set foot on the campus or been to one of our football or basketball games. Parents might even have moved away from the area when their child was old enough, just to avoid the possibility of their offspring experiencing new and different cultures.

Recent events have only perpetuated this existing Oakland Mills stereotype, and many are calling for reform, not just at the school, but across Howard County. Activists across the county have tried to change certain reforms for how schools react to violent and nonviolent incidents, though none have proved successful. Last year, Oakland Mills students organized a walkout in protest of how the school reacted to racist social media posts. They were highlighting Policy 9200, which “does not require students and staff to be informed of any ‘direct or implied threat’ made by another student,” explains the Baltimore Sun.

HCPSS Policy 9200 highlights student discipline and the strategies to control student altercations that occur in schools across the county. “{Policy 2900}… expands the tools that teachers and principals have in regards to dealing with issues, to give them more than what is commonly accepted as punishment for infractions or rule breaking.” says Thomas McNeal, Director of Security for Howard County Public Schools. ”It is not as simple as suspensions.” The policy also highlights what teachers should do when a fight breaks out, stating that, ”A principal, teacher, school security guard, or other school system staff member may use the degree of force that is reasonably necessary to prevent violence, order, protect himself/herself, the students involved in the fight or struggle, and other persons in the vicinity of the confrontation.” However, it is common knowledge throughout the school system that teachers are not allowed to intervene in fights, unless they are trained. “Short answer is no one should do anything that they don’t feel they are prepared to do, or comfortable doing. If they feel it is necessary to intervene in a situation to protect someone or themselves from violence, they should also have that ability,” argues McNeal. “But you also take a risk there whenever you intervene of doing so improperly and could cause more harm and damage.”

Oakland Mills is no stranger to disagreements among students, though we are not the only school that suffers from these incidents. In the United States in 2014, there were about 486,400 nonfatal violent victimizations at school among students 12 to 18 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That number has slightly decreased since then due to heightened school intervention programs across the country and an increased focus on the mental health of students. “There are a number of things that are systemic issues, among them the amount of fights are occuring, students being bullied, and students that feel less accepted or that they are not part of the individual school culture,” explains McNeal. ”If I could change anything immediately it would be to address the issues of violence, bullying, and inclusion.”

Oakland Mills High School is unique in the Howard County Public School System, but not for the reasons one may think. We have the best school spirit and our sense of community cannot be beat. When we walk outside people know that we are proud to go to Oakland Mills because of the day-glo orange that covers us. As students, staff, and alumni we should take the  “Oakland Mills pause” not as a setback, but as a challenge to prove to the world that we celebrated and recognized for our school achievements and spirit as well as our diversity.

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