County grand jury blasts Alternative School

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2001

[05/14/01] Rules against using drugs, alcohol and tobacco are being ignored at the Vicksburg Alternative School, grand jurors said in their report issued Friday.

“Serious and credible allegations of grossly unacceptable conduct by some faculty and many students have surfaced,” the report said.

Superintendent Donald Oakes, a former principal at the Alternative School, said he was not aware of the problems the jurors mentioned in the report.

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“I think these claims are based on hearsay,” Oakes said. “We are not going to claim that everything is perfect because that is not the case at any school.”

The report alleges alcohol abuse by teachers during and before school hours, on-campus drug use by students and truancy.

“These things were told to us by personnel who work at the alternative school and they were being truthful,” one grand juror said.

The Vicksburg Warren Center for Alternative Programs was established in 1991 for students that don’t progress in a conventional classroom setting.

Oakes said no specific cases of student drug use at the school, which was moved to the former home of Bovina Elementary last year, have been brought to his attention.

“As with any school we are going to enforce the discipline polices that are in place,” he said.

Charles Sanders, the school’s current principal, said he didn’t want to comment on the report because he had not had a chance to read it.

“I think the school is a valuable tool for students and they should take advantage of it but they’re not,” one grand juror said.

Elsewhere in their report, jurors, who have been in session since Monday, recommended that smoke alarms should be installed in restrooms as a smoking deterrent.

“We feel that with any schools we have issues with children smoking, but it is not a particular problem at the Alternative School,” Oakes said.

The grand jury also:

Commended Vicksburg Police Chief Mitchell Dent for working toward national accreditation for the department.

Recommended additional funding for youth activities in the city and county to include mentoring programs, wilderness camps, youth centers, recreational facilities and additional staffing.

Recommended a pay raise for Warren County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

Suggested that the operating hours for City Pool and other city operated parks be extended.

Recommended that the Vicksburg Police Department review its case files for accuracy and completeness prior to submission to the District Attorney’s Office.

The grand jury, which meets four times a year, considered evidence in 62 cases and returned indictments in 57. The panels, selected at random from voter rolls three times each year, meet in closed sessions, interview public officials and inspect public buildings and programs.

No bill passed in Port Gibson man’s death

The Warren County grand jury decided not to fault a man in the December death of a Port Gibson resident.

The jurors found there wasn’t enough evidence to charge or prosecute 28-year-old Larry Thompson for manslaughter in the death of Mario Lush.

Thompson, 14200 U.S. 61 South, was arrested Dec. 2 for reckless driving and DUI, both misdemeanors, in Lush’s death.

District Attorney Gil Martin said the case would probably not be represented to the next grand jury, which meets in July.

“In order to do that there is usually some kind of new evidence and that is not the case with this,” Martin said.

Prior to the grand jury, which began Monday and ended Friday, Martin said, the DUI charge against Thompson was dropped after a blood test determined his blood alcohol level was below the legal limit of .10.

Lush, 20, died at the scene of the wreck at about 2:18 a.m. after the 1994 Nissan pickup in which he was riding was hit from behind by the 1997 Pontiac Thompson was driving south on U.S. 61.

Thompson was released from the Warren County Jail Dec. 6 on a $2,500 bond.

Others not indicted or no billed by the grand jury are:

Charlotte Davis, 45, 1533 Raymond Road, Jackson, grand larceny.

Willie Johnson Jr., 24, 4200 U.S. 80 No. 15, possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute.

Keyla O’Quinn, 28, 208 Chesnut St., grand larceny.

Separately, four were arraigned in Warren County Circuit Court Friday after being indicted by the grand jury.

Cosme Gomez, 21, 26 Friar Road, burglary of a business and grand larceny.

Joseph Parson, 23, 2607 Hannah Ave., burglary, grand larceny and burglary of a dwelling.

Darren Johnson, 19, Route 2 Box 365, Port Gibson, burglary, grand larceny and burglary of a dwelling.

Elizabeth Montgomery, 26, 920 Polk St., false pretenses.

Robert Peoples, 46, 1114 First North St., aggravated assault.