HHA is very safe, both inside the building and throughout our property. Our boys are girls are escorted to and from outdoor after school activities such as Audubon and baseball without incident. However, there have been recent safety concerns for HHA students and others walking home and in Patterson Park. Groups of middle school students, who have been identified as Friendship Academy students, have stolen iPhones, chased and scared our students, and in two cases, hit our students without provocation.
Baltimore City Police Southeast District Captain Brian Hance was at HHA last Friday to discuss the problems. He assured me that the police presence in the afternoon hours has been increased as a result of reports from the larger community and HHA. Baltimore City Schools Chief Goodwin is providing our area with increased support as well. Additionally, we have some of the students causing problems on our security camera videotape as they walked by our building about 10 days ago. We have provided the tape, which does not show any misbehavior and is only being used for identification purposes, to the police as well as to Principal Sargent at Friendship Academy.
Principal Sargent has been very quick to investigate any concerns we have and is diligently trying to protect his school community. It should be emphasized that the problems are isolated to a handful of boys who have simply not been challenged when they misbehave in the neighborhood. However, a number of Friendship students have been expelled. Much of the new trouble is possibly attributed to a recent Board of Education vote to close Friendship Academy after this school year, adding uncertainty for staff and students and disconnecting students, families and staff from their immediate community.
As the school year winds down and the weather gets warmer, dismissal time may be challenging. HHA staff has been alerted to this situation. However, we strongly encourage students who walk to go directly home, to walk in groups of two or more, to stay on main streets, avoid alleys and the park, walk with the adult or staff escort to and from afterschool camps and activities in the park, and to report any suspicious behavior immediately. The most challenging period of time has been between 3-3:45 pm. Based on current investigations, we believe that the problems will be significantly diminished in the next week or two. Please see me for more information or to discuss safety issues.