Several changes to security practices will be implemented at Verona High School after three interrelated fights broke out across the building last week, the district superintendent said in a letter to families and staff members Friday.
Superintendent Dean Gorrell said the Verona School District will hire three new security assistants sooner than expected, create an anonymous tip line for students to report safety incidents and threats, and require the students who were suspended because of the fights to meet with high school administrators before returning to school, among other changes in response to the fights that drew law enforcement and upset parents to the high school on May 9.
Gorrell also acknowledged and apologized for a “lack of timely communication” about the fights as they unfolded throughout the school day.
The fights, in which two students and a staff member were injured, pulled employees in charge of communication away from their positions, Gorrell said, disrupting the school’s communication stream.
“We have now reassigned tasks, changed our protocols, and created built-in system backups to ensure we don’t leave our staff, students and parents in the dark in the future,” he said.
The fights stemmed from students with “interrelated personal disputes that escalated over the course of the day,” Gorrell said. Verona schools spokeswoman Kelly Kloepping said the district suspended 18 students — either for actively fighting or using social media “in an effort to motivate further disturbances” — for periods ranging from one day to the remainder of the school year.
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Three teenagers have been charged in juvenile court.
Following the second fight, two parents and other adult family members showed up at the high school after they were told their children were being suspended. The adults were “yelling, threatening staff and creating a disturbance,” Verona police Lt. David Dresser said last week.
Now, when a student is involved in a dispute or behavioral issue, only family members or guardians listed in the district’s student information system will be allowed to enter the building, Gorrell said. They will then be immediately escorted to a meeting room, he said.
Other changes include:
- An additional staff member at the school’s welcome center during the lunch hour to supervise who is entering the building.
- The creation of a “fight intervention protocol” to be ready by the fall with the goal of standardizing staff response to fights, preventing student and staff harm, and minimizing law enforcement involvement.
- Hiring three new security assistants for the 2019-20 school year instead of when the district’s new high school is planned to open in the fall of 2020.
Gorrell said instances like the fights are “not common,” but he added the district recognizes “that any event that causes our students, families or staff to question their safety carries a significant emotional impact and understandably damages the trust of our community.”