Silver Chips Online

Community forum held at Blair to address Tai Lam's death

Parents, officials gather to prevent further violence

By Julia Wynn, Online Connections and Food Editor
November 12, 2008
County officials, Blair administrators and other members of the Silver Spring community gathered Monday night to address the concerns of parents and students in relation to the death of freshman Tai Lam, 14. The forum, held in Blair's auditorium, discussed methods for increasing safety in Montgomery County and promoted the importance of a strong sense of community. A question-and-answer session followed a series of community speakers.

After Lam's death instigated widespread distress, Principal Williams thought it necessary to discuss ways of preventing further tragedies, he said in his welcome speech. Williams cited the value of bonding together during such unhappy times.

Pete Buckley, a Ride On bus representative from the Department of Transportation, and officers from the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) informed parents and students about ways they planned to increase security within the community. Buckley said that 60 percent of Ride On buses are equipped with security cameras and that by December of next year, all but 50 buses in the system will have them. Besides ensuring the safety of the buses themselves, Ride On and MCPD are targeting bus stops and routes that are prone to violence. "We're working with the police department to identify crime areas," Buckley said. More specifics were not offered.

MCPD Commander Don Johnson also emphasized collaboration as the key to preventing further unnecessary violence. Hearing citizens' concerns is essential to maintain a safe community, according to Johnson. "We're going to work with you and want to work with you to make our community a better place," he said.

SGA President Sybil Brown spoke about what Blazers are doing to cope with their grief, introducing a poetry slam to take place next Tuesday that will provide a forum for students to express their feelings about the tragedy. As a preview for this event, senior Minkailu Timbo read a poem he wrote about Lam entitled "In My Mind." The work was a tribute to Lam's "outrageous" fashion style. "He was a fashion icon. We all miss him and remember him for all the things he's done for everybody," Timbo said after the event.

The administration showed a video put together by Blair students after the incident commemorating Lam. The students in the video labeled him a fun, joyous role model who was always complimentary. "He was a student who had so much potential," Williams said after the forum.

Other speakers included Nancy Navarro from the Board of Education, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin, all of whom advocated for a stronger sense of community. Ervin, who said that communication and understanding was the way to avoid more tragedies, had all audience members greet one another during the meeting.

Leggett called Lam's death a learning experience and was disappointed in the lack of foresight from the community. "There are things that we need to be doing in advance," he said. "That's the agenda I want to address."

The forum concluded with a question and answer session allowing community members to relay concerns to a board consisting of most of the forum's speakers. Participants raised questions about gangs and the measures in place to increase safety within the community. Due to a lack of time, not all questions were answered, but the board made sure to address all student queries.

Overall, Williams was pleased with the evening. "It was great to hear from the county officials. Unfortunately, we didn't get to everyone's questions. That just means we'll have to have another meeting," he said.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/8689