UnacceptableViolence in schools must cease

Published 1:23 am Sunday, March 25, 2012

Michael Mayfield is not one to mince words. Following a melee at Vicksburg High School on Tuesday, the alderman said that if the violence does not stop, “You’re going to be carrying body bags out of that school.”

The comments came after the third brawl at the school in less than two weeks. On Tuesday, nine students were arrested and the school was locked down for more than an hour. Fights also had been reported on March 5 and March 9. Six were arrested in the March 5 brawl and one was nabbed March 9. In both cases, pepper spray was used by a school resource officer.

Police said more than 50 students were involved in the Tuesday brawl. Parents are calling for tougher discipline at the school, but the problem goes beyond that. The problem extends well beyond the school walls. By the time these students reached high school, there should have been a foundation of decorum, knowing right from wrong and playing by the rules.

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It is obvious, though, after the third such event that many of those students either do not have the foundation to act appropriately or lack the parental supervision to be held accountable for such actions.

Many parents who arrived Tuesday to pick up their children said the failures are with the school’s leadership. They are calling on school administrators to install metal detectors at front and back entrances and have more oversight on the comings-and-goings of students.

Cosmetic changes. Metal detectors ideally will keep knives and guns from the school, but in these brawls rumors of guns were unfounded. Likely these fights would have happened with or without the metal detector.

Other parents say it is a failure of the Vicksburg High administration to keep the students in line. One parent said, “It’s not that there is bad leadership, it’s that there’s no leadership.” Attempts to reach principal Derrick Reed were unsuccessful, and that, too, is telling.

Reed needs to get on top of this situation. He needs to put forth a strong face — the voice of strength at a school that needs a voice of strength. He needs to tackle this issue head-on. Parent Lynda Jackson said she is working with Mayfield in an attempt to hold a rally at City Park for parents, teachers and others concerned with security. A rally would call attention to the problem — for one night — and how likely is it that those involved in these fights or their guardians will show up? How many criminals come out to celebrate National Night Out Against Crime?

Cosmetic changes and rallies are after-the-fact, knee-jerk solutions to a problem that appears to be growing — and putting all those well-meaning children whose goal is to get an education at risk.

Crisis? Maybe not yet. But let this violence continue and we one day might be living Mayfield’s words.