The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 10, 2012

Violence concerns voiced to Raleigh BOE

Concerned Woodrow Wilson High School parent and DNR law enforcement officer Don Kelley attended the Raleigh County Board of Education meeting Tuesday to ask the board what actions they plan to take to alleviate what seems to be a rash of violent events linked to the school.

“I want it to be an environment I feel confident sending my son into,” he said, adding that recent events “seem to be spiraling out of control.”

Board President Richard Snuffer commented that the board is aware of the situation and is working with the administration to remedy it.

“Woodrow Wilson is an excellent school but we do have a few people causing problems and we are trying to deal with those individuals,” he said. “We all have to step in and the kids need to feel like they can report problems to the administration.”

Superintendent James Brown said the incidents have been compounded by rumors and gossip, particularly on social media sites.

He said one event occurred at a Woodrow Wilson football game that did not involve a Woodrow student and so far there have been between 10 and 12 fights this school year that have led to disciplinary action within the school.

While that is still too many within the first seven weeks school has been in session, said Brown, false reports have implied many more have occurred.

He also noted that contrary to rumors, no weapons violations have occurred within the school.

Brown said in reviewing the fights, most of them seem to occur in hallways and in the cafeteria.

“No fights are happening in the classroom. Learning is happening in the classrooms and that is a good thing. There are things we can do quickly to address the culture and climate of the school,” he explained. “We are looking at the layout of the school, how students arrive in the morning, how they leave the cafeteria and how we can address the student flow and increase supervision.”

Brown added that targeted students may be signing a pledge between themselves, their parents and the school system in which they commit to attendance, academics and good behavior.

“If they are not willing to commit to that, we are going to find a setting that is more appropriate to meet their needs. It might not be Woodrow Wilson High School, and that is all right. One setting might not meet the needs of all the students,” he said.

He said the administration is also looking at setting up peer mediation and better support for the work of WWHS counselors.

Kelley said he would also like to see improved communication between the school and parents. Often parents learn about things through their children, he said.

Brown agreed and said they plan on better utilizing their notification systems via text messages and their Edline website.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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