Bibb Study Criticizes School Safety, Discipline

6:53 PM, Sep 7, 2012   |    comments
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Some Bibb County school employees feel pressured by the district's leadership not to discipline students who commit crimes, a consultant's study says.

The report by Safe Havens International looked at many aspects of safety and discipline in Bibb Schools --from building security and emergency planning to police staffing and crime-reporting policies.

Among other things, they wrote that crimes and other discipline problems are not handled consistently.

Part of the problem, they said, is a perception among many school employees that district leadership wants to avoid expelling or suspending students, even for crimes like weapon possession.

"Several staff members even alluded to an unofficial policy in the district that the individual schools should deal with discipline issues on their own and avoid suspending or expelling students.

"One staff member stated that implied threats had been made to pull teacher certifications for staff members who were not able to deal with discipline issues using alternative methods."

Parents offered similar comments in forums and online surveys, the consultants wrote.

The report also says Bibb County school officials should back out of an agreement signed this spring with the Bibb County District Attorney's office and other agencies, aimed at diverting many school crimes from the court system.

The deal "effectively strips local law enforcement and building-level administrators of any real decision making authority" for many misdemeanor violent crimes.

"We feel this approach will drive underreporting of school crime even higher than the current dangerous level and that acts of violence and other negative outcomes will occur in the district as a result of this approach."

Some of the other findings:

-- Students are too often left unsupervised.

-- The district's plans for emergency response and preventing infectious diseases were inadequate. There are no plans for responding to a mass-casualty incident.

For example, they found that the district had drawn up plans for how bus drivers should react to a tornado warning, but they had not been shared with bus drivers.

-- There are gaps in building security. Doors were found unlocked or propped open at every school building that was surveyed.

The report describes how Safe Haven's president, Michael Dorn, signed into a school building as "Charles Manson," walked around the building with a stolen security badge and introduced himself to a student as the new principal. He talked a student into giving him a tour of the building, and no staff members questioned who he was.

-- Campus police are understaffed due to budget cuts and vacancies.

The report says the effect on their ability to properly protect students and staff "is noticeable and severe."

Many sections of the 97-page report are blacked out to prevent release of sensitive material -- for example, one four-page section that deals with threats from sexual predators in the community.

Dallemand and other school officials did not return our phone calls. Dorn declined further comment.




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