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Violence complaints filed at North High

Assaults at the school are on the rise

Assaults at the school are on the rise

January 16, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- The parent of a North Hagerstown High School student on Friday filed a violence complaint with school officials, claiming his 14-year-old son was assaulted three times at the school since the school year began in August.

The student will transfer to another school, his parent said Friday.

The parent's name is not being published to protect the identity of his son.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith and North High Principal Valerie Novak maintained the school is safe.

"To me it's a very safe school, as all the schools are," said Smith, whose son graduated from North High in 2008.

In the complaint filed Friday, the North High parent wrote that the student's "life is in jeopardy because of the recent assault and threat" made in front of two staff members at North High on Monday.

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When asked what the threat was, the student on Friday said he was told: "I'm going to kill you." According to a police report filed in the incident, a staff member heard that threat Monday.

The student who made the threat told police he was joking, that he is friends with the student threatened and was sorry for what he had done.

The offenses listed on the juvenile delinquency report filed in the incident are second-degree assault and threats on school property.

The student has been assaulted at school three times this year, according to the complaint filed by his parent. Two of those assaults were dealt with by police, the parent said.

In the complaint, the parent said the student was advised by a psychologist not to return to school until his environment is guaranteed safe.

The student said he did not want to leave North High because he has friends there and enjoys the sports programs.

The student will transfer to another area high school, with transportation costs to and from school to be paid by the school system, the parent said.

Data provided to The Herald-Mail by Smith shows that assault numbers for North High are higher this school year than in the two previous years.

Between the first day of school this year, which was Aug. 20, and Jan. 12, nine assaults were reported, Smith said. During that same timeframe in 2007-08, two assaults were reported, and during the 2006-07 school year, five assaults were reported in that timeframe, Smith said.

During the same time period, the number of bomb threats dropped and the number of weapons violations remained fairly consistent.

Novak provided The Herald-Mail with the numbers of "serious discipline issues" from this school year and last year, also between the first day of school and Jan. 12. The discipline issues in this data included alcohol and drug issues, weapons violations, physical attacks on students, verbal physical threats on staff, verbal physical threats toward students, fighting, shoving, bomb threats and sexual harassment, Novak said.

Last year, 51 of these discipline issues were reported between the beginning of school and Jan. 12. This school year, 53 were reported during that period.

"Any time a student is injured, we're going to be concerned," Novak said. "We would like these numbers to be zero."

Parents who feel their child is not safe at school should first talk to the principal, school officials said.

When students feel unsafe, there are several steps that can be taken, Novak said.

School counselors and administrators are trained in mediation, she said. Students also can be put on delayed passes so they are not in the hallways during heavy traffic times, she said.

Washington County Board of Education President Wayne D. Ridenour said board members are briefed almost immediately when something happens involving student security.

Ridenour said he has not noticed an upswing in violence this year. Having resource officers in the schools does mean that more incidents are documented, he said.

Director of Secondary Education for Washington County Public Schools Clyde Harrell said Thursday that a Hagerstown Police Department resource officer has been stationed at North High for about five years.

Harrell said he encourages parents to work with school staff first, but they can appeal to him for additional support.

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