One of the three schools selected for the school-based violence intervention pilot program is Merganthaler Vocational High School. Photo courtesy of Merganthaler Vocational High School.

Baltimore City will launch a school-based violence intervention pilot program in three city schools starting next spring, Mayor Brandon Scott announced.

Specialists will work with administrators, students and their families to combat school violence and foster a more positive school environment by developing stronger academic performance and enhancing conflict management. 

The first three city schools to participate in the program will be Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, Carver Vocational Technical High School, and Digital Harbor High School. They were all chosen based on the number of arrests, suspensions of students due to violence, specialist availability, and the ability for the school to support the program, according to city officials.

The pilot program, which will be managed by The Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) and a community-based organization, will also assist with communication, empathy, emotional regulation management, and behavioral skills.

“Many of our students have unfortunately experienced more trauma than many adults have experienced in a lifetime, and we must recognize that this does not just go away once they enter the school building,” said MONSE Director Shantay Jackson. “Giving them the tools to resolve their conflicts in ways that do not cause harm physically or emotionally are invaluable life skills that they can use daily. We are proud to partner with a school system that recognizes that the development and cultivation of emotional intelligence saves lives.”

The program’s staff will support students identified to be at high-risk of violence and assist faculty to provide restorative practices with intervention strategies, which include “essential life skills training, conflict mediation training, academic remediation, and emotional wellness,” officials said.

Each school will have eight student ambassadors who will receive weekly stipends to assist with the program’s implementation. 

Additionally, each school will have three trained violence interrupters who will lead conflict resolution. 

“Impactful and sustainable change begins with our young people. For the first time in Baltimore, we are meeting them where they are and integrating intervention methods into their daily lives,” Scott said in a statement. “As leaders and educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that our young people have all of the tools they need to not just survive but thrive.”

The program will not only take place during the school year, but will continue during breaks with staff members providing mentorship and training to students.

“No one organization alone — whether it be the City of Baltimore, Baltimore City Public Schools or Baltimore Police — can tackle violence in our community. We must collaborate and engage to make our city safer,” Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises said in a statement. “Violence claimed the lives of 12 school-aged children last academic year, and City Schools relies on community partnerships like MONSE and Mayor Scott’s pilot program to reduce the violence through alternative solutions that address the real issues behind the harm.”

Latrice Hill is a Baltimore native and Morgan State University graduate who loves all the great things this city has to offer. She worked with WMAR 2-News as an Assignment Desk Editor before she joined...