On a day of civil and violent unrest sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody last week, officials from the Baltimore City School District announced that they are making crisis counselors and mental health professionals available at schools throughout the city for "as long as it is necessary."
"At this time of tension and anxiety regarding the tragic events surrounding Mr. Freddie Gray, we have a heightened responsibility to our students, families, and school communities," said school district leaders in a statement Monday.
While noting that "the safety of our staff and students is our top concern," the officials continued, "We are also communicating with each one of our school leaders around effective instructional strategies to heighten student awareness and understanding of social justice issues. We are deeply concerned about our students and community, and we hope to treat this situation not only as a teachable moment but also a time for thoughtful reflection on how we can reduce conflict and violence in our society."
Gray was arrested earlier this month after making eye contact with police officers and running away, the Associated Press reported. He sustained serious spinal injuries while in police custody, although how those injuries occurred is still unclear. Six police officers have been suspended as a result of the incident.
Following Gray's funeral on Monday, protesters clashed with police in Baltimore, and the governor of Maryland ended up declaring a state of emergency. Media reports indicate that some of the violent protests -- which resulted in seven injured police officers -- involved young teenagers.
Baltimore City schools are redeploying "district staff and mobile units to assist in ensuring safe passage of our students between school buildings and bus stops." according to the district's statement.
Meanwhile, public schools in nearby Anne Arundel County cancelled all field trips into Baltimore until May 3, Patch reports.
"The cancellation affects about 40 planned trips by schools ranging from elementary to high school. Like other school systems in the state, [Superintendent George] Arlotto said he and school system officials have monitored the developments in the city closely since Friday, and decided today that it was best to keep children, staff, and chaperones away from any potential unrest," said a statement from the Anne Arundel district on Monday.