More than one arrest per day of classes has occurred in the Muscogee County School District this academic year.
That’s according to the data MCSD provided the Ledger-Enquirer through an open records request.
In the six months from Sept. 1 through Feb. 28, MCSD had 107 class days and 166 student arrests — an average of 1.55 student arrests per class day, according to the data provided.
If MCSD had no arrests in all the 2017-18 class days that have been conducted but aren’t part of this analysis — August, March and the first three weeks of April — the district’s student arrests per day still would average more than one: 166 student arrests in 158 class days (1.05 per class day).
Kendrick High School (22) had the most student arrests in the district during that period, followed by the AIM program (20), which is MCSD’s alternative school for students with severe discipline violations, and Baker Middle School (16).
MCSD communications director Mercedes Parham told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email, “Our schools’ efforts to reduce incidences that could lead to charges or arrests reflect a district-wide approach.
“That approach includes the implementation of PBIS (Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports) and social emotional learning curriculum, which helps our teachers set and model expectations for student behavior throughout the school year. Our schools also work in coordination with our counselors and social workers to address behavioral issues. As issues emerge, schools refer to those resources. Our primary goal is to maintain a safe and secure learning environment for all students and personnel. Thus, violent or repetitive behaviors that detract from that goal, at times, must be addressed under the advisement of our law enforcement community.”
Parham added in an email Monday, “All of the listed charges do not represent school incidences. Several of the arrests are initiated by parents. Warrants are served on campus, in many instances, for infractions that did not occur on campus.”
She also noted that the number of arrests listed reflects 0.5 percent of MCSD’s student population.
Theresa El-Amin, regional director of the Southern Anti-Racism Network, told the school board during her April 16 presentation on the student arrests, “One of the big issues that I have been struggling with the whole time I’ve been in Columbus is how to plug that school-to-prison pipeline, because this is how it happens. ... There are a lot of great things going on, but some of these students need more.”
And she understands, El-Amin said, schools need help from the community to help children.
“I would really like to see the board really take a serious look at this,” she said.
Chairwoman Kia Chambers, the nine-member board’s lone countywide representative, replied, “Thank you so much, Ms. El-Amin, for bringing that to our attention.”
MCSD security director Scott Thomann said, “When a juvenile is charged, it goes down on paper as an arrest, but it is a juvenile complaint under Georgia law.”
Juveniles are transported to the police department to be fingerprinted and photographed only if the complaint is a felony or if the juvenile has “an extensive record,” he said.
Thomann noted MCSD security gets “a lot of calls” from parents asking for intervention to help their child.
“In all these cases, we go back and look at conduct,” he said. “We don’t censor the officer’s discretion whether to make cases or not. We certainly try to make sure that option is well down the list. ... When we were kids, we would have a fight first period and we’d go to lunch together third period. It’s not that way anymore.”
Superintendent David Lewis told the board MCSD doesn’t want any students hindered by a criminal record the rest of their life, but he emphasized, “No student has the right to infringe on the safety or welfare of teachers or other students. … That’s what we’re expecting, to make sure we have a safe environment, where teaching and learning can take place, and we will continue to do that.”
MCSD’s administration is upgrading school security in two ways it discussed with the school board this month:
▪ Lewis’ recommended fiscal year 2019 budget, if the board approves it in June, will put a full-time armed security guard on staff at each MCSD high school, starting next school year.
It would add an estimated $801,720, including $351,720 in start-up costs, to the $2,133,871 MCSD currently allots for security, according to Thomann’s presentation to the board. The increase in expenses would pay for boosting MCSD’s security staff from 17 part-time officers to 10 full-time officers and seven part-time officers with three additional positions. And if the board authorizes the administration to do so, MCSD will apply to become a limited jurisdiction police agency, Thomann said, just like the departments serving Columbus State University and Columbus Technical College.
▪ More police cars are expected to be in MCSD parking lots, thanks to the memorandum of understanding with the Columbus Consolidated Government that the school board unanimously approved this month.
The purpose is to connect the MCSD and CCG wireless networks. The most visible benefit from this relationship probably will be Columbus police officers being able to file their reports from any MCSD location – and the presence of their cars would give those school or administrative buildings a free upgrade in security during that time.
MCSD 2017-18 STUDENT ARRESTS BY SCHOOL
(September through February)
Hardaway and Northside: 4
East Columbus: 15
Double Churches: 3
Arnold and Midland: 2
Aaron Cohn and Veterans Memorial: 1
Blackmon Road and Fort: 0
Gentian, Georgetown and Reese Road: 1
Allen, Blanchard, Brewer, Clubview, Davis, Dawson, Dimon, Double Churches, Dorothy Height, Downtown, Eagle Ridge, Forrest Road, Fox, Hannan, Johnson, Key, Lonnie Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Mathews, Midland, North Columbus, Rigdon Road, River Road, South Columbus, St. Marys Road, Waddell, Wesley Heights and Wynnton: 0
System-wide magnet schools
Britt David, Columbus, Early College and Rainey-McCullers: 0
AIM (for students with severe discipline violations): 20:
Woodall (for students with disabilities): 3
St. Elmo (for gifted students): 0