Black History Month Showcase Photo Series

Archive, School Events

By: Asad Ali

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Black History Month Fashion Show Photo Series

Archive, The Arts

By: Amalie Nohe-Moren

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New Security Contract in Baltimore Schools Incites Backlash

Archive, School News

By: Micah Berger-Sollod

New Policies at Baltimore School for the Arts

On a cold October morning, two things greeted students at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Previously unused metal detectors were suddenly being operated on every student going through the Madison street doors. Just past the doors, friendly administrators were searching through bags. This is a result of a Baltimore City Public School System’s policy that had been in place for seven months but had only just been introduced to the halls of BSA. Bag searches and metal detectors are contentious issues in schools around the United States and, with a new Baltimore school board contract, the voices objecting to these practices have only become louder.

According to Principal Rosiland Cauthen, the introduction of the policies into BSA were sparked by an inspection by the school district’s office. The inspector was disappointed with BSA’s lack of implementation of the metal detector and bag search policies. Metal detectors were only in use for a single morning after the inspection and they caused a massive line around the block. Students took off their bags and emptied their pockets before going through. Despite that, the metal detectors often rang off with false alarms. The bag searches were performed by BSA administrators, Thomas Askey, Dawn Strickland, and Rosiland Cauthen. With over four hundred students at BSA, the entire process that morning was painfully slow.

The next morning, the lines were virtually gone. No one was being forced to go through the metal detectors, however, the bag searches in the lobby still remained. 

Four months later, bag searches are still present at BSA. Over the course of 22 days, a reporter from the BSA Muse was checked only nine times. This means the reporter was only checked 40 percent of the times they entered the building. The reporter also stated that they never had multiple pockets in their bag checked, though it has occurred for other students.

Principal Cauthen made it clear the use of metal detectors and bag searches were Baltimore Public Schools Policy and not BSA policy. “In the climate that we’re living in, where we’ve seen an increase in violence, an increase in hate, an increase in random shootings in schools and other places, as much as we can do to prevent anything from happening, I think we should,” stated Cauthen.

Students of BSA have cast skepticism on these policies, however. Naija Delong, a senior actor, said that the new policies “didn’t really” make her feel safer and that she thought of them as “pointless”. “It’s just an extra step to get to school,” said Delong.

Kayla Hammonds, a film freshman, said “It kind of reminds me of how prison systems are set up. I get the policy because of all the threats recently, but the execution of the policy is not great.”

Bag Searches

Bag searches have been a long-criticized practice in Baltimore public schools. Bag searches, also known as safety checks, first became a mandatory policy after an altercation at Digital Harbor High School in April of 2022. There has been no public information released on this altercation. 

Ethan Eblaghie, president of the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City, claims that safety checks are often paired with racial profiling. In an Instagram post, the Baltimore Student Union, a student-led group Eblaghie is associated with, stated, “[the safety checks] did not get weapons out of schools and resulted in a wholsesale logical disaster.” In the same post, Eblaghie said that the safety checks were “an offensive disgrace to students with disabilities” and that the policy is anti-disability and anti-poverty. 

That being said, research on the effectiveness of bag searches has come up with diverse results. Over the course of two years, the Los Angeles Unified School District found 37 knives, 18 containers of pepper spray, 16 razor blades, three shanks, two box cutters, and a stun gun. Additionally, there were 137 pairs of scissors that could also be used as weapons, 73 instances of illegal drugs, and 56 over-the-counter medications.

On the other hand, an internal audit of Los Angeles schools found that 25 percent of schools did not have enough personnel to perform the searches and that people of color were searched at a disproportionate rate to caucasian students.

Darryl Johnson, BSA’s school police officer, said, “At BSA, weapons can often be part of what someone uses for class.” Johnson reflected that many students at BSA use equipment, such as box cutters, that can be easily used as a weapon.

Metal Detectors and New Contract in Baltimore City Schools

Metal detectors are another story entirely. In October, the school board had an agenda item that would have transferred 1.2 million dollars in funds from the general fund to capital expenditures. The agenda said the money was for a “weapon detection systems project” but gave no additional details. Melissa Schober, a parent at BSA, took notice. Schober thought that “weapons detection systems” was a unique phrasing and went looking online for vendors that used the same phrasing. She found one particular company, Evolv Express, a company under Alliance Technologies Group, that uses that same phrasing. 

Preceding a public school board meeting, Schober suspected that a procurement of that size suggested that a contract with Evolv had likely been in the works for a long time. Schober stated her suspicions at the public board meeting. But according to Schober, “the commissioners seemed surprised and were asking lots of questions.” 

“It seemed that the board had not been briefed on the contract,” said Schober. Schober suspected that the true agent and organizer of the contract was the City Schools’ purchasing agent, Shabray Matthews.

In response to the board meeting, Schober put in a request for the information via the Maryland Public Information Act. “I wanted to see the behind-the-scenes thinking on the [Evolv] systems and what, if anything, was the school system thinking of the efficacy of the [Evolv] systems,” she said.

The school board’s plan, preceding a full use of the Evolv weapon detection system, was to have a 200,000 dollar contract that intended to pilot the weapons detection systems at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School. Maurice A. Gaskins, assistant director of facilities design and construction at Baltimore City Public Schools, said in an email, “We picked Mervo because they have up to 1k students scheduled to be in and out of the building.”

Additionally, Brooks Gearhart, account executive and business development rep at Alliance Technologies, claimed that “Evolv metal detectors work at 10x the speed of normal metal detectors.”

Both statements were within the emails between Evolv Technologies and the school board released by Schober’s indictment of the Maryland Public Information Act. These statements have not been confirmed outside these emails. 

Brian Nolan, the acting superintendent of Utica schools, a school district that also used Evolv’s weapon detection system, said that the system does not detect knives. Utica is now phasing out 4 million dollars in metal detectors from their school systems and replacing them with new ones.

Schober is particularly worried about faulty metal detectors because her child must wear a metal ankle foot orthotic because of gait. 

In May, Peter George, CEO of Evolv Technologies told the Washington Post that the metal detectors have difficulty distinguishing between chromebooks and guns. In November of 2021, an Urbana, Illinois school board utilizing Evolv systems found that 60-70 percent of alarms were chromebooks.

Internet Protocol Video Market, a security and surveillance industry research group and trade publication, investigated the effectiveness of Evolv metal detector systems. After a meeting between IPVM and an Evolv salesperson in which Evolv promised to disclose all possible issues, IPVM continued to find weaknesses in the system. After IPVM’s expose on the issue, Evolv claimed that “they were putting the general public at risk.” IPVM found that 15 percent of weapons sent through Evolv’s metal detectors were undetected. 

Evolv also claims to be giving away free systems to schools as part of charitable acts. This is also false. Schools that receive free metal detectors are forced to be marketing partners for Evolv Technologies. 

In mid-December, during Schober’s correspondence with the school board, Schober summed up her problems by saying, “The school system is considering an expensive, proprietary system with almost no public efficacy data.” In a report by the BBC, it was reported that Evolv was missing many large knives at stadiums like Manchester Arena. In Utica’s school systems, in reports by IPVM, and in reports by the BBC, knives remain one of the most missed weapons by Evolv systems despite the assurance that the systems do in fact detect weapons. It is clear that Evolv is mislabeling its service. Evolv’s systems are not effective weapons detection systems. They are metal detectors.

“I am sorry that you felt the need to draft a rebuttal to a parent of a disabled kid who is concerned about the District buying an expensive security system that might not work and might, in the process, delay entry, especially for students with disabilities,” Schober said in response. 

On December 13th, the Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City and John L. Davis, Chief of Schools for Baltimore City Public Schools spoke in a school board meeting. In the meeting, Evolv said that “students enter through the metal detectors at regular walking pace.” However other school districts have had other results. In Utica, New York as well as in Dorchester county students are often forced to take out metal items from their bags before entering. Evolv also stated that their systems eliminated the need for searches. Despite claims otherwise, there is no basis to the claim that Evolv can lower violence on school campuses. 

Evolv piloted metal detectors at Mergenthaler High School, Carver Vocational-Technical High School, Francis M. Wood High School, and Patterson High School in August of 2022. After the first pilot at Mervo, Principal Tricia Lawrence said that “The sense of security provided is why I’m a strong advocate for this type of system.” and that the systems were “effective” and “non-intrusive”. Also at the meeting, representatives from Evolv laid out a timetable for the use of their system in Baltimore City public schools.

Student Commissioner Quinn Katz-Zogby, a student-elected member of the school board, delivered testimony at a Baltimore School Board policy meeting in which he cited multiple failures of the Evolv system. Evolv did not respond to his testimony. Katz-Zogby was also excluded from the communications between Evolv and the school board.

Note: Quinn Katz-Zogby is on staff at the BSA Muse, but was not otherwise involved in this story. 

Ethan Eblaghie, President of the ASCBC, said at a Baltimore School Board policy meeting that the contract was “at best ill informed and at worst misguided.” Eblaghie continues to object to the communications between Evolv and the School board without notification of ASCBC.

“A failure to consult ASCBC in August implies the promise to consult on the Evolv contract was nothing but lip service. The support amongst the directly impacted, students, teachers, and staff, for mandatory safety checks is dubious”, Eblaghie said of the contract during the school board meeting. Eblaghie also claimed that disabled students were unfairly profiled by metal detectors and safety checks, though statistics were not provided. 

At the end of hours of testimonies from student groups and Evolv representatives, all but one of the school board members voted for the Evolv contract. “I feel less angry and more disappointed,” said Katz-Zogby.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

The Factors of Middle School Arts Education on BSA Admissions

Archive, School News

By: Quinn Bryant

Every January, the Baltimore School for the Arts holds auditions for 8th and 9th graders interested in pursuing a career in the arts. Over 1,000 students audition and only a little over 100 are accepted every year. Different art departments look for different qualities in their auditions, but could the art education you got while in middle school make or break your chances of getting in? The answer is not as straightforward as it may seem. 

Budget and Structure

One factor in any successful program is the time and money devoted to it. Those factors will contribute to the resources and accessibility it has. Baltimore City Public Schools have outlined their attempts to produce a successful arts program across the school district. In the published  BCPSS 2020-2021 budget review, they outline their Fine Arts Initiative, which is outlined annually in Attachment 13 of their Master Plan. 

The Fine Arts Initiative“allots funding to support curricular and instructional programs in visual arts, dance, music, and theater. This includes district music festivals; student field trips; systemic professional development for visual arts, dance, music, and theater teachers; and financial support for these initiatives.”

Along with this initiative, BCPSS has an additional Arts Education Strategic Plan. Its goal “ensures representational structures including but not limited to the hiring processes, curricula, environment, access to resources, and continuous access to sequential arts instruction in all art disciplines. The overarching goal of this plan is to increase student agency, facilitate authentic self-expression, and prepare students for post-secondary success to better the community through the arts.”

To ensure their plan’s success, it includes a five-year implementation of its goals and an accountability process. Specifically for middle school students, the standard is that all students will have art instruction each year and may specialize in one or more of the art disciplines of dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual art. 

The plan has all the key components to produce a well-structured art program, but many professionals feel it is still neglected. TWIGS Director Candance Everette claims, “resources are very limited in Baltimore City Public Schools, especially as we continue to navigate the impact of the pandemic.” Baltimore city acknowledged that their students need more access to the arts in the FY23 Adopted Budget Presentation to the Baltimore City Council.  

In that same presentation, BCPSS plans to increase its budget for enrichment to a more than 7 million dollar increase in the 2023 academic year. However, this amount of money isn’t just going to the arts—it is going to athletics as well. Arts and Athletics are two subjects that require a lot of funding and attention to succeed.  

Common Schools 

But funding is only part of it. Schools need a set art curriculum, but it varies depending on the school. According to Lisa Peels, Admissions Coordinator for BSA, the schools that audition vary year to year. However, she always sees some of the same schools, such as Roland Park, which Senior Violinist Lauren Ewards expresses gave her “the catalyst toward her progressions in other orchestras.” Lillie May Carroll Jackson School has a connection with Art for Heart (a visual arts non-profit) and an extensive theater program.

BSA also sees some private schools audition consistently, such as Friends School of Baltimore, Bryn Mawr, and Garrison Forest School. Private schools typically have their students choose an artistic concentration in their arts curriculum. Kai Hams, a senior film student who went to Friends School of Baltimore, says, “There was a solid choice in what arts you could pick, but it was a lot more music-focused.”

However, Kelly Durkin, an elementary/middle school drama teacher at the Belair-Edison School, believes that middle school art should be more of an exploratory period for students, which is the path public schools take. At Belair-Edison, students are encouraged to find their artistic passions.

Department Statistics 

But even if you explore music, dance, and visual arts, what gets more focus in the overall arts program? Visual arts are naturally built into Middle school schedules as your art class, whereas dance could be later replaced with music or is optional. 

According to Arts Everyday, Baltimore City’s strategic partner in advancing access to the arts, “90% of Baltimore City Schools now offer courses in Visual Arts”. This could be why visual arts has the largest applications to BSA each year. In 2022 there were 231 applicants for the Visual Arts program, and Acting was second with 172 applicants.    

Durkin expressed that acting doesn’t need a lot of funding to enrich the program. They don’t have as many material needs the way music does. Music is one of the more neglected arts in public schools, which could explain why music had the smallest application pool of 62 applicants in 2022. 

“68% of schools offer courses in Music. However, less than 15% of students have access to Instrumental Music, Theater and Dance instruction” (Arts Everyday). The city released a statement in the FY23 Adopted Budget Presentation saying, “We will increase instrumental music opportunities for all students in K-12.”


Many students learn from outside-of-school opportunities. Everette expressed that “In a perfect world, all students should have the option to remain within their communities, at their schools to learn and experience arts and culture.” However, many students look to the outside-of-school art enrichment programs, such as Peabody Preparatory, the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center, or the TWIGS program at BSA, to expand their arts education. 

“The TWIGS (To Work In Gaining Skills) program provides initial artistic encounters as well as advanced instruction for Baltimore City elementary and middle school students in dance, music, acting, stage design & production, visual arts, and film & visual storytelling,” says Everette. TWIGS is also partially funded by the BCPSS budget for BSA.

“This year (for school year 2023-2024), 18 out of the 21 admitted visual artists are from the TWIGS program,” says Peels. But according to Everette, just because you did TWIGS does not necessarily increase your chances of getting into BSA. “I believe TWIGS is an absolute pillar, not a guarantee, to the increased probability that a student may be granted admission into our high school.”

“However, data does reflect that the in-depth training and skills taught over a period of time prepares TWIGS students in ways that undoubtedly equips them to execute professionalism and meet and/or exceed artistic standards set forth by instructors and department heads,” says Everette.  

From budget, curriculum, private vs. public, and outside-of-school training, many factors contribute to a middle schooler’s admissions to BSA. If you go to a middle school with a more “intense” art program, one that puts the money and resources towards it, you may be more intrigued to a school like BSA. 

However, there are many public middle schools that don’t receive that exposure. Even with the higher quality middle school art curriculum that we see, students are looking for more outlets than they are given in school. Statistically, there is no sequence of circumstances that can guarantee a student into BSA. 

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

Headline photo caption:

Film TWIGS student in the library. Photo by Grace Sutherland for the BSA Muse

Commentary | Unpacking the College Board

Archive, Teen Topics

By: Audrey Weiss

Any high school student has most likely interacted with the College Board either through taking an Advanced Placement, or AP, class and the ensuing exam or through the PSAT/ SAT exams. 

The College Board is the organization that has a monopoly over education and is inherently ingrained in the school system that students know today.

The College Board’s mission, as listed on their website, is to “prepare [students] for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success—including the SAT, the Advanced Placement Program, and BigFuture.”

Services provided by the College Board are vital to students seeking higher education post-high school. 

There are many inquiries that the College Board has been called out for as of late, pointing out how the institution is failing to fulfill its mission and needs reformation.

The College Board was founded in the year 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB), with the purpose of creating a standardized entrance exam for colleges and universities and serving as a venue for college access discussion.

The services provided by the College Board have changed along with the times, growing with the educational institutions it maintains partnerships with and growing in reach as College Board exams have replaced government-mandated achievement tests.

The College Board expanded in 1952 with the AP pilot, which started the organization’s providing of educational curriculums coming directly from them to be implemented in classrooms all over the country and now the world.

Advanced Placement is now the largest source of income for the College Board.

As far as income is concerned, the financial aspect of the College Board has been one of the major points of negative discussion. According to recent reporting from the New York Times, more than $490 million of the College Board’s revenue came from AP and Instruction.

The College Board identifies itself as a “not-for-profit organization,” both publicly and under the national tax code.

This means that all of the funds that the organization collects are untaxed, but the income should not be distributed to the members and leadership.

However, the College Board is making a lot of profit, hundreds of millions each year, which isn’t all getting recycled to run the services the College Board distributes.

The College Board invests some of the money it is making off of the students, gaining more and more profit that is difficult to trace, and beyond that, both the CEO and the President of College Board made over a million dollars in the year 2018.

The College Board monetizes off of the students with the exams it provides. The SAT costs $55,the base cost for one AP test is $97, and millions of these tests are taken every year.

The organization originally founded to increase access to higher education now serves as a block in the road for many. The services provided by the College Board have institutionalized racial, gender, and income inequality in the college application process.

Although there are opportunities for fee waivers, which only 10% of yearly College Board profit is spent on, the high costs for College Board exams and the exams themselves get in the way of accessibility and prevent students from making it to the next educational step.

The SAT for a long time has been a requirement in most college applications, that or the main competitor for the College Board the ACT.

Accessibility to the test could determine where students end up after high school and the level of privilege, financial or otherwise, then becomes a factor in SAT success because of how many times a person is able to take it and the study opportunities available to them.

On another note, opportunities for fee waivers, either for an individual or an entire district are available. The Baltimore City Public School System itself provides students with free AP exams.

The College Board has also been making changes to the SATs to try and keep relevance for the test, by both eliminating the essay sections of the exam, and now with the in-progress move toward digital testing.

However, the future of the SAT is becoming questionable following the move away from standardized entry testing by colleges and universities.

The faults of the unchecked and unelected organization, the College Board, are now being recognized for taking advantage of students and contributing to a broken educational system.

There are major pushes for change and a complete overhaul of the education system that the College Board monopolized, but with the power that the organization possesses, who knows how successful any attempt will be.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

Headline photo caption:

Photo by: Common Data Set Initiative. Edited by Quinn Bryant for the BSA Muse.

BSA Fashion Photo Series

Archive, Teen Topics

By: Ella Haber

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