Three Baltimore high schools will pilot a violence-intervention program starting next spring, Mayor Brandon Scott announced Tuesday.

School-based specialists will start to work with students, families and school administrators during the spring semester of the 2022-2023 school year to mediate conflicts and help young people develop problem-solving skills, according to a news release.

Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, Carver Vocational Technical High School and Digital Harbor High School were selected for the launch.

Each school will employ three school-based violence interrupters who will be trained to mediate conflicts.

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A community-based organization will be tapped to oversee the program at each school, which will be run in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, and eight student ambassadors will help get it established.

Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, said the office is finalizing selection of a community based partner and finalizing program design in preparation for launch in early 2023.

Scott committed to establishing school-based violence intervention programming as a component of his five-year violence prevention strategy in 2021. The three schools were identified for the pilot based on the number of arrests and disciplinary actions related to violent incidents, among other factors.

“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 Sonja Santelises said in a statement.

Santelises said 12 school-aged children were killed during the last academic year.

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At least 71 juveniles have been shot through the first three quarters of 2022, according to an Oct. 17 analysis by The Baltimore Banner.

“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.”

While this pilot program is funded at $700,000 by the National League of Cities over two years, Jackson’s agency is actively working to secure alternate funding sources so the agency can expand to other schools across the city.

Jackson also told WJZ-TV there were 19 arrests related to violence at the three schools last year and 372 suspensions for fights and other altercations. WJZ-TV is a media partner of The Baltimore Banner.

According to Jackson, “the pilot will be evaluated after implementation which will also inform plan for expansion and scale.”

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Tuesday’s announcement comes on the heels of several proposed changes to Safe Streets, a program that deploys community members to de-escalate potentially violent conflicts. The city plans to consolidate its operations and reduce the number of community-based organizations running the 10 Safe Streets sites from seven to two.

Penelope Blackwell is a Breaking News reporter with The Banner. Previously, she covered local government in Durham, NC, for The News & Observer. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Morgan State University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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