HIGH POINT— City Manager Strib Boynton said Guilford County school officials need to admit they have a school violence problem and enact a tougher policy that emphasizes discipline in the schools.
Schools need to identify “high-risk” students earlier and take action against them. “The system here is one where they suspend a kid for a few days and they come back or pop up in another school,” said Boynton, who recommends longer suspensions.
The city manager’s comments come after a week of assaults and arrests at Andrews High School and several other Guilford County schools.
“They can’t keep denying that there is a problem,” Boynton said Friday.
There has been an increase in police activity at all three High Point high schools this year. The number of incidents involving violence or threatened violence has more than tripled at some schools.
By Dec. 1 at Andrews, police had filed 33 criminal charges for assault, affray, communicating threats, fighting, resisting police and disorderly conduct. That compares to 14 charges for similar crimes in 2003 at the school.
At Southwest High this year, police have filed 21 charges in connection with those types of crimes — up from seven in 2003. And at High Point Central, police have filed 64 charges so far this year for assault, affray, communicating threats, disorderly conduct, fighting and resisting police. In 2003, police filed 22 charges for similar crimes on campus.
“Kids push things until they’re stopped,” Boynton said. “Sooner or later, unless the schools work with us, a teacher, student or administrator is going to be seriously injured or worse. They need to look at something different because what they’re doing is not working,”
Police were called to Andrews on three consecutive days this week in response to reports of fights. An assistant principal was injured Tuesday when several students refused to return to class after two fights broke out in or near the cafeteria. One student was charged with assaulting a police officer during the Tuesday fracas.
One day later, police were called to investigate an assault that sent one student to the hospital for treatment. Thursday, four students were charged by police for fighting.
High Point police said they expect to make more arrests in connection with the series of fights. So far, 10 students have been charged this week. Investigators also are looking into the Thursday-morning robbery of a student that happened about 100 feet from the Andrews campus.
Guilford County Schools superintendent Terry Grier, who was visiting Andrews Thursday, hinted openly that the police’s response that day — which included six patrol cars parked in front of the school — may have been excessive.
“Sorry, they’re going to be there” was Boynton’s response Friday.
High Point Police Chief Jim Fealy agreed.
“We’re going to send as many cars as we need to send. There are some things I disagree with Mr. Grier about. Yes, there are fights in schools, but this is not the norm.”
Fealy said his school resource officers have expressed concerns about the violence occurring in the schools.
“Frankly, we’ve stepped up our efforts this year,” he said.
Grier could not be reached on Friday through his spokesman, Derran Eaddy.
City officials and Fealy are requesting a meeting with Guilford County school officials to find a solution to the rising number of violent incidents. A similar meeting was held this past spring with Grier.
Charles Benton, principal on special assignment at Andrews, said schools need to be cautious about suspending students.
“You have to make sure people are treated fairly,” he said. “It was sort of an unusual week. We’ll sit down next week and talk about what happened and see if there is anything we could have done different.”
Contact John Vandiver at 883-4422, Ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org