By Greg Gelpi
A beating so severe that her son came home with boot prints all over his body prompted Denise Cooper to pull her children out of the Clayton County school system.
Cooper recounted seeing the tread of the boot still imprinted on the fifth-grader's flesh, but was even more disturbed at the reaction she received from school officials.
They responded with "Kids will be kids," she said, citing it as the reason she now home schools her children. Administrators at the school were "nonchalant." The incident happened in November 2003 at Jackson Elementary School, and she blamed individuals within the school system, rather than calling it a systemic problem.
"My child was beaten repeatedly severely in the hallways, so severely that he came home with boot prints on his back and his legs," Cooper said. "Now I'm concerned other kids might be in danger."
Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam has vowed not to tolerate violence to students or staff and will bring proposals for cracking down on school violence to the Clayton County Board of Education tonight. The meeting is slated for 7 at the Administrative Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro.
Pulliam will ask the board for authorization to bring dogs into schools to patrol for guns and drugs, as well as seek permission to use metal-detecting wands to search for weapons on suspicious students.
The requests follow a recent string of school violence, including a Forest Park High School teacher who was beaten by students, a Kendrick Middle School fight involving more than 25 students and Alternative School students arrested for making death threats.
After meeting with principals and assistant superintendents, Pulliam said the school system developed a plan for increasing safety for high schools, a plan that will also be adopted in middle schools.
"I don't want a tragedy in the school district either," Pulliam told parents of those involved in the Kendrick fight recently. "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.
"I will never put my kids back in Clayton County schools," Cooper said. "I don't trust Clayton County schools."
She said that her children associate public schools with violence and that she is looking to move out of the county so that she can find a safer environment for them.