Casey schools dealing with behavior problems

December 12, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - After a series of expulsions and suspensions due to students having illegal drugs on the school grounds, fighting among the students, and disruptions in the classroom, the Casey County Board of Education met Thursday night with local law and judicial officials to find solutions.

After the two-hour meeting, the board agreed to meet in special session at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 to discuss an alternative program and to hire a police to patrol the middle and high schools.

There have been more than 30 fights and several expulsions since school began in August. The high school principal has had 700 referrals to his office, including tardy students. About 20 of the students are the main problems.

"We want you to help us decide what we need to do to better handle and deal with control concerning our students, and alcohol and drug possession on our school grounds," said Superintendent Linda Hatter.


"The students are important to us and we need you to help us grow into a good community," high school Principal Tim Goodlett said. "It takes everyone," he told local police and judicial officials.

Goodlett thanked the officials for the help so far to better control the students.

"Since the beginning of school, we had a lot of fights. We have been averaging three a week and had 25 fights up to Oct. 15," said Goodlett. "Since the Liberty police have been involved, we've had six or seven fights."

Goodlett said the school wants to make sure it is handling the procedures correctly and look for any kind of help it can get.

Donald Sweeney, board chairman, asked what steps to take after a student has been caught using or possessing drugs. "What should be the first step? A five-day suspension, or do we need to call the police or let the court system handle the situation?"

Currently, the student is suspended five days with a two-day waiver if the students gets counseling from ADANTA. The school usually does the suspension and the student usually gets counseling. After a second offense for possession or selling drugs, an expulsion is recommended, Goodlett said.

If a juvenile is arrested in public, the court designated worker is called, and in some cases, the juvenile is placed in a detention center or sent home to his parents, then goes through juvenile court where there are other alternatives, said County Attorney Thomas M. Weddle Jr.

District Judge Roger Elliott said there is no jury in juvenile court and that he makes the decision. "If they are found guilty, we do a pre-investigation and look into the background before I recommend a judgment," Elliott said. The idea is to do something to prevent it from happening again, he said.

Weddle said he is not trained in psychology on what to do with children. "This is a problem of society and there is no way we can make someone be a good parent," he said.

Children are not prepared when they start to school, and it is the responsibility of the parents to raise them, said Weddle. "We're dealing with children that need to behave, but this is not enforced at home. I don't know that I have an answer."

Terri Price, middle school principal, said police in the schools may help solve the problem.

"Since we told the kids that the police would handle the fighting, there have been no fights at the middle school," Price said. She said there has been few problems with drugs. But there are other problems. Some students have mental problems and other problems with home life.

Police Chief Ron Whited said having a school resource officer in the schools will help. Also, to do away with the soft drinks and duffle bags will prevent some problems. He found that one student had a soft drink mixed with alcohol.

He also suggested not allowing students to go to their cars during school and to do car searches and check out visitors more carefully.

Elliott also said problems will decrease if the schools are policed. He said if the schools decide zero tolerance on certain behaviors, they have to be consistent.

Elliott said if the public and kids see the enforcement is immediate, it may help.

He said juvenile court will not solve the problems. He said the educators are charged with safe learning facilities and the police have to keep the peace. "In court, we do the best we can do," he said.

Weddle said he will support the board in whatever it does. "I would not get in a big hurry and lock myself into anything but you need different alternatives."

"It is our duty to not throw kids away," said Price. "We have to make sure to enforce laws and be fair about it. We need to teach kids something they don't get at home."

Price said 6.7 percent of her students make repeated trips to her office. "They are hurting, they are poor. If they bring tobacco or anything else to school, they get it at home. They don't understand or think like we think. I'm spending my time with problems, and it's not fair for me to spend all my time on that. We need an alternative. These students cannot sit in a classroom and conform to things."

She said her school is safe and only a few drugs have been found there. "Drugs are not that big a problem, but some kids have all kinds of problems at home."

Goodlett said the environment in the school is unlike anything the school has dealt with before.

"Kids have different moral values and attitudes. They want a short-time fix for everything."

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