Pulliam, parents discuss violence in schools

By Greg Gelpi

Fearful of more fights and worried about the school system's response, Kendrick Middle School parents met with Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam Monday night.

The Hispanic parents painted a picture of black students provoking fights with their children to the point that they suffer injuries and feel no choice but to defend themselves by fighting back. One parent even expressed concern that it will take an event such as that at Columbine for the school system to take action.

"With what confidence do I send my daughter to school?" Christina Ramirez, whose daughter was punched during the melee, asked.

In light of recent events, Pulliam announced plans to ask the Clayton County Board of Education for permission to tighten security in schools.

After meeting with principals and assistant superintendents last week, Pulliam said the school system developed a plan for increasing safety for high schools, a plan that will also be adopted in middle schools.

The plan calls for the use of dogs to sniff out guns and drugs, hall monitoring during the change of class and metal-detecting wands to search for weapons in suspicious circumstances, she said.

"I don't want a tragedy in the school district either," Pulliam said. "It's not my wish to have a metal detector for students to walk through, but it's not something that I will say that I will not do."

Pulliam said more walkie-talkies and wand metal detectors have already been ordered.

"I've also earmarked money for additional security in the buildings," she said, explaining that the money will fund more police officers and other personnel for patrolling schools.

The school system is also working on training parents and staff to better deal with the problem of gangs, and efforts are under way to recruit more Hispanic staff at all levels to better communicate with the Hispanic population.

More than 25 students were involved in the fight that fell along racial lines as Hispanic students fought with black students Wednesday, Clayton County Police Department Capt. Jeff Turner had said.

Students can't be expected to act like "punching bags," Ramirez said.

She credited Hispanic students, who were drawn into the fight, with preventing her daughter from getting hurt more than she did. Her daughter was punched in the back of the neck and pulled ligaments in her knee as she tried to get away.

At the time of the fight, Kendrick Principal Beverly Garner said that she, one of the assistant principals and the school resource officer were off campus, leaving one assistant principal.