The Groveport Madison Board of Education took steps to increase security at Groveport Madison High School.
At its April 9 meeting, the board approved (by a 4-1 vote with board member John Kershner dissenting) contracting with 1st Choice Security for two additional security personnel to be stationed at the high school for the remainder of the school year at a cost of $13,440. There is already one security person in place at the school as well as Groveport Police Officer Christopher Gyke, who serves as the school resource officer.
Kershner said he is in favor of increasing security and understood the urgency of the vote, but he felt the board should review its options before taking action.
"I wanted to slow down and talk to the Groveport and Madison Township police departments to see what our options are to use real police officers. You get what you pay for. I personally prefer having police officers there," said Kershner, who noted the Madison Township police department is right across the road from the high school.
Kershner added he’d like to see a more balanced approach to how the district handles security and that the junior high ought to be included in the discussion.
High school principal Donis Toler said one of the new security guards approved by the board will monitor outside the school, such as around the modulars, stadium, and playing fields; while the other one will work inside. The existing security person will monitor the school’s 12 security cameras and Gyke will continue as the school resource officer.
The board also approved adding more security cameras to the cafeteria after a price and procedure for them are established.
Problems at the high school
According to Superintendent Scott McKenzie, a Groveport Madison High School teacher recently suffered a concussion while trying to break up a fight between two students at the school.
"He hit his head pretty hard," said McKenzie.
According to the report filed by Gyke, the teacher was struck by a student he was trying to hold back as that student tried to hit the other student. The student who struck the teacher was charged with disorderly conduct and assault and sent to the county juvenile detention center. The other student was released on summons to his grandmother.
Fights, assaults and disturbances have plagued Groveport Madison High School this year. According to Groveport Police Chief Gary York, there have been 177 students involved in fights/assaults/disturbances at the school since the beginning of the school year. York said this is an increase over the entire 2006-07 school year when there were 150.
"It’s only April and it’s already surpassed last year’s total," said York.
Kershner questioned the 177 total noting that this year 29 students have been suspended for fighting.
In an interview earlier this year, Gyke speculated that there are a couple of reasons why friction arises at the high school. One, he said, is that the "halls are really packed" and the crowded conditions sometimes spark problems when nerves get frayed.
"It’s a lot of people in a small space," said Gyke.
Gyke said another factor is that disputes that may arise among students in the many neighborhoods that make up the geographically large school district sometimes spill over into the high school building.
"The school is the common place everyone from all of these neighborhoods share and sometimes problems from outside the school find their way into the building and flare up," said Gyke.