Parents speak out about problems at Groveport Madison High School

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By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

A large crowd of parents and community members came to the Nov. 17 Groveport Madison Board of Education meeting on expressing concerns about safety and security issues at Groveport Madison High School.

The school is plagued by fights among students and recently two students were found to be in possession of guns while at the school.

“We, as a board, administration, and staff deeply care about the well the being of our students,” said Board President Chris Snyder. “We don’t have a simple answer for all this. We are meeting with staff to work to improve safety and security.”

Citizens’ reactions
Twelve citizens spoke at the meeting about their worries about problems at the high school. During the meeting, audience members also called out from their seats demanding immediate action from the board and officials to end the fights and related problems in the school.

Security solutions proposed from the citizens included: installing metal detectors or using metal detector wands at the school; improving transparency in communications from district officials to the citizens; listening to suggestions from students on how to improve the safety and culture at the high school; making sure students know the consequences of their actions; expelling and banning repeat offenders from school (in Ohio, if a student is expelled they cannot attend any public school); increasing the number of security personnel and hiring more female security personnel (currently the school has five security staff members including one female, there are also two school resource police officers – one each from the Groveport and Madison Township police departments); providing more mental health counseling; eliminating the use of backpacks; reducing overcrowding in the high school; and creating a long term safety and security plan.

Several parents said their kids are scared to attend the high school, including John Weston who said his son is afraid to go to the school. Weston said fights happen, but the real threat is weapons in backpacks.

“There are more weapons there than anyone knows,” said Weston. “A culture of disrespect exists at the school. Give the students clear rules and let them know the ramifications of what they do.”

Citing the dangers, Mechelle Raine said there is “no way her child” will attend the high school.

Added Jocelyn Houck, “Transparency is an issue from the top down at Groveport Madison. Everyone needs to know the consequences of their actions.”

Jennifer Silva noted her son said kids at the school are angry and every day there are fights, especially in the restrooms.

“Every child deserves to be safe,” said Thomas Ridenour.

Kathryn McCormick said she cannot believe what is happening at the school.

“This is not Groveport. It’s ruining pride. It’s ruining property values. It’s infecting the kids’ mental health. There’s no reason for kids to go to school scared. Please help us!” McCormick told the board.

Harold MacHarrie believes school officials have “lost control of the school’s environment.”
“These are not typical schoolyard fights,” said MacHarrie. “Heads are getting stomped on. It’s become a failing school district because kids are not safe.”

Brandie Walton said the problems at the school are conditioning kids to feel that trauma is normal.

“We need an actionable plan,” she said.

Anthony Murphy of Lead The Way Learning Academy said the district must give students a voice.

S. Brad Wilson said he was “disgusted by the school system” and plans to send his kids to school elsewhere.

Shaun Raleigh said, “All Groveport Madison students deserve better. Put student and staff safety above ineffective policies.”

Board and administration reactions
Board member Libby Gray said her heart goes out to the parents and the community.

“We need a safety plan,” said Gray. “We can’t wait. We have to do something. Kids cannot be educated if they are scared.”

Board member Seth Bower said the board has heard the community “loud and clear” and the district “needs to do something now.”

Board member Kathy Walsh said safety policies must be reviewed, student offenders must be expelled, community roundtable discussions about the high school should be held, and more social workers and security personnel should be hired.

Board member LaToya Dowdell-Burger said she heard the sentiments of the public about safety. She suggested students using clear backpacks so no weapons could be hidden in them and establishing a student advisory council to the board.

Snyder said district is working on the problems.

“We want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Snyder. “We’re all in this together.”

Audience members called out during the board’s comments stating, “There’s no time to wait for research,” “We need action and we need it now,” “Protect our kids,” “Enough is enough,” and “Groveport is better than this.” Audience members also offered to personally pay for metal detector wands.

Superintendent James Grube said officials are “actively working” on changes and improvements to how the high school operates, security, and discipline.

Deputy Superintendent Paul Smathers said, “We care so much. We are worried. There are so many talented kids that are being overshadowed by all this.”

Safety hotline
Students and adults can anonymously share information with school officials and law enforcement about threats to student safety by calling or texting to 844-SaferOH (844-723-3764). Calls are answered by the Ohio Homeland Security’s Threat Assessment and Prevention Unit. When action is needed, the TAP Unit immediately notifies school officials, law enforcement agencies and others, if necessary.

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