WASHINGTON – Days before the anniversary of the murderous shootout at a Colorado high school, Maryland’s Talbot County has been identified as having one of the highest rates of murder of parents in the country.
Talbot’s high rate of parricide was one reason why the small, rural county was awarded a $943,624 federal grant Saturday to make its schools less violent. The county was also targeted because it has the fourth-highest rate of juvenile crime in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Talbot is one of 23 school systems nationwide that will divide $41 million in federal grants to better children’s mental health and safety. The grants were announced Saturday by President Clinton.
County officials blamed the high rate of parricide on two recent cases in which children killed their parents: Michael Fisher, 16, confessed to killing his brother and parents in March 1996 and David McQuay, 15, admitted killing both his parents in October 1997.
“We had two children in a year that killed their parents in this county,” said Beth Nobbs, the Talbot school system’s coordinator of pupil services. “We are an anomaly.”
Even though the county is rural, she said, youth crime and violence are still problems.
“There are still kids (in rural areas) and there are still needs that need to be met by the community,” Nobbs said. But she advises that “what works in D.C. is not going to work in a rural area.”
Talbot County officials said they will use the federal funds to add mental health services at the county’s three school-based wellness centers. County schools will also design crisis plans, increase security in school buildings and focus on early intervention at the county’s nine schools.
We really want to “get to the core of what’s going on with the child,” Nobbs said. “We can’t control their home environment but, in the time that they are with us, we do have the ability to control that environment.”
A U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman said grants were not based solely on a school system’s criminal statistics, but on a demonstration of need and the submission of effective and well-developed safe-school plans.
“These were very competitive grants and they were reviewed by a panel of non-federal experts in the field,” said Melinda Malico, the spokeswoman. “And I am sure they (Talbot schools) deserved the money if they got it.”
This was the second year for the program. Last year, 500 school districts applied for grants to fight school violence and 54 won federal funding, including Baltimore City. This year’s recipients were chosen from the school systems remaining from that original pool of 500 applicants.
“We are very proud of our grant,” Nobbs said.
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