Student fights lead Columbus parents to demand action from school district

Bruce Miller scrolled through the messages on his cell phone, stopping on a short video sent to him by a relative.

Video showed an incident in the first few days of the school year, with a boy curled up on the floor, trying to shield himself from another boy who repeatedly kicked him.

“It is literally the front door to Marion Franklin High School,” Miller said.

Images of such fights at Koebel Road School on the South Side, Buckeye Middle School on Parsons Avenue and other schools in Columbus City have regularly surfaced online this school year.

“I stopped counting at 64 videos,” Miller said.

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And that’s part of the reason Miller, an elected commissioner from the Far South Columbus area, and others gathered Tuesday night at the Scioto Southland Community Center. Many are tired of the violence, the continued posting on social media of student brawls and other destructive behavior, and school officials who they believe are not doing enough to stop the bad behavior .

“What are you doing to protect our children? “

“Our kids don’t feel heard, and they certainly don’t feel safe,” said Becky Walcott, Far South Columbus area commissioner. “We as parents are frustrated. “

About 50 people, many parents or grandparents of children who attend Columbus City schools, spoke for over an hour, recounting the fights they witnessed and the frustrating conversations they had. with school administrators. Why, parents asked, aren’t easily identifiable children in fight videos being kicked out by the school district?

“What are you doing to protect our children? Said Lynnette Williams, whose granddaughter attends Independence High School in the Eastland area. “What are the staff (of the schools in the city of Columbus) doing to protect our children?” It’s out of control. If you know they are texting and they have this app… you can see what’s going on. Why doesn’t the principal or vice-principal take that child out of school or class and kick him out? “

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Chris Nicholson worked security at Independence High on the South East Refugee Route for about three years. In his first year on the job, he said, there could have been five violent incidents.

This school year alone, he said, has been over 20.

“About three or four times a week, it seems,” Nicholson said. “Some of us (safe) were injured. We all probably have nicks and bruises (from breaking up fights).

And Nicholson said that every moment he and other security guards, teachers and school staff spend quelling fights and disruption between students is another moment of wasted learning.

“The time we spend dealing with nonsense in schools, regarding fights or children smoking weed in the toilets, I have the impression that children who go to school to do good things, their time is being wasted, “he said.” Because teachers constantly have to shut down the class, call security, or remove a child from the class. “

In an emailed statement Tuesday night to The Dispatch, Jacqueline Bryant, spokesperson for Columbus City schools, said the district was “committed to working with civic leaders and the community to address the issue of violence at home. young people. We are not alone, as districts across the state and across the country are also grappling with this challenge. “

Bryant added that fighting in schools “requires local solutions, which is why these conversations are so essential. We also need to engage our young people to understand the root cause of the problem and to develop student-led solutions. We are look forward to working with our community and our students to understand and resolve these issues.

Columbus Police Event Summaries obtained by The Dispatch show that between September 5 and November 11, police were called to Marion Franklin High School 26 times, including for half a dozen reported unrest, two fights, several incidents involving gunfire, one person suspected of having a firearm at 2:42 p.m. on November 11, and several domestic disputes.

However, records show 12 of the 26 calls were made after 4 p.m., including two rounds involving reported guns that entered dispatchers after 8 p.m. – not during the normal school day.

At Buckeye Middle School on Parsons Avenue, east of South High Street, there were nearly 50 police calls between September and Tuesday morning, according to police records. Only four of the college’s 47 calls since September have arrived after 4 p.m. several complaints of unknown nature. A call to 911 was reported at 10:23 a.m. Tuesday, according to police records.

Calls on parents to get more involved, held accountable for student violence

There was broad agreement Tuesday night – and occasional standing ovations – when attendees urged parents to be more involved and responsible for children’s actions.

“A lot of people say, ‘Well the kids have been out of school for over 18 months because of COVID. “But that doesn’t negate the fact that you know how to keep your hands to yourself,” Nicholson said.

The problems don’t go away on their own either, with affordable housing and other residential projects underway. Over 450 new single and multi-family units are under construction in the surrounding area and are expected to be occupied over the next few years. This means more children for school buildings that are already transporting children elsewhere in the district due to staff issues and other issues, Miller said.

“Where are we going to educate these children? ” He asked.

Most in attendance also raised their hands when asked if they think the number of security guards in Columbus City schools should be increased and whether they think Columbus Police Resources officers should. be stationed in certain schools.

Sheila Eubanks, president of the Marion Franklin Area Civic Association and organizer of Tuesday night’s meeting, said a steering committee is being formed to further develop ideas to tackle student violence and other issues , with the goal of creating a coalition involving parents, community members, schools, Columbus City Council, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and others.

“We’re going to brainstorm,” Miller said. “We have ideas that we will discuss. We’re going to ask the community for their ideas, then take them to the schools, bring them back to the chairman of the board (Shannon) Hardin, bring them back to parks and recreation, and try to develop a different approach.

One idea suggested was an extension of the type of after-school program already in place at the Scioto Southland Community Center, where students receive help with homework and access to other activities. There could be roles there and in other community centers for college students from other community centers studying to become teachers or professional groups to pique the professional interests of adolescents.

“A lot of parents have multiple jobs just because of economic conditions,” Miller said. “Let’s see if we can help them… Child care, due to COVID, has been cut off. A lot of things, because of COVID, have been disrupted. “

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