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Parents vent frustrations over school scandals

By Curt Yeomans

Twenty-one Forest Park High School parents and alumni, and three City of Forest Park officials, gathered at city hall on Friday night with the intent of discussing recent scandals at the school with officials from Clayton County Public Schools.

Instead, they were met with empty seats on the side of Forest Park City Council chambers that was set aside for school system officials, and members of the Clayton County Board of Education.

Now, questions submitted by the parents will be taken to school officials in an attempt to establish a dialogue on ways to improve the school.

"At least we know some of the concerns parents have about what's going on at the school," said Forest Park High School parent and meeting organizer, Shanda Ross. "I'm going to bring these questions and concerns to the school's administration, the [Forest Park High School Parent-Teacher Student Association], the school system, and the school board, so they can understand what our concerns are."

In just over a week, Forest Park High School has been in the media spotlight because of scandals involving two of its teachers. Former Basketball Coach and Physical Education teacher Lawrence McGraw is facing two counts of simple battery because of an October incident involving a female student in the school's concession stand. There are conflicting reports as to whether McGraw grabbed the student by her arm, or by her belt, before she fell.

Another teacher at the school recently completed a suspension that was issued to him after a student, and a former student, were caught having sex in his classroom after a drama club meeting.

During the meeting, some parents stood up and told Forest Park City Councilmembers Sparkle Adams and Linda Lord, as well as City Manager John Parker, the empty seats were indicative of the type of response they are getting from school district officials about concerns involving the school.

"That's what we're dealing with," said Forest Park High School parent, LaTonya Jackson, as she pointed to the empty chairs. "They treat us like we're not important, or that our issues are not considered important."

School system officials, ranging from School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson and School Board Member Trinia Garrett, all the way down to administrators from Forest Park High School, had been invited to attend, accordinbg to meeting organizer, Shanda Ross. Of all the officials invited to the meeting on Friday night, only Anderson and Garrett had confirmed they would attend, Ross added.

But as the meeting got underway, not even the school board members were there to hear the concerns of parents. "The board members called me at the last minute and said they had another obligation that came up at the last minute," Ross said.

When called late Friday night, Anderson said she did not attend the meeting because of a family emergency. Garrett could not be reached for comment.

Ross said she and other parents plan to "follow the protocol" by working first with school-level officials, while making sure the school system, and the school board is aware of the issue.

School System Spokesman Charles White said school-level and district-level officials are looking forward to receiving the questions from Ross, and working with parents to address issues at the school. He said he could not comment on whether parents have been ignored, because he was not at the meeting.