By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
The Register received reports Tuesday of violence at Madison Central High School occurring over the past two days.
But, “the bulk of this centers around rumor,” said Erin Stewart, the district’s community education director.
“We’ve been fielding calls from parents yesterday and today also,” she said. “But if parents weren’t concerned, it would be odd.”
One parent told the Register that her daughter, who is a junior, said there were more than 17 fights Monday at the high school. Her daughter had witnessed two of the fights and tried to avoid one by going down a different hallway, she said, but was “squished” by a crowd of fleeing students.
Another parent of a senior said her daughter has been coming home with stomach aches, and she and her friends are afraid to go to school.
“Of course, if parents want to take their children out of school, it’s their right to do so,” Stewart said. “But, no time in the last two days have we felt like there was any threat of danger to anybody.”
There have been some isolated incidents at Central the past two days, she said. However, school administrators and the school resource officer, Whitney Maupin, reported only four fights.
Richmond police officers and district administration were in and out of building all day, Stewart said, which is the normal procedure when there are any rumors of violence.
“It’s a difficult situation because there are a lot of things that get blown out of proportion and over-exaggerated,” she said. “But we’ve seen, in other communities, what can happen. So we take it pretty seriously, even if it’s just rumors in the mill.”
Students have been “tweeting” and posting about the incidents on social media, which has “complicated the situation,” Stewart said. “Those things travel much quicker than they used to.”
Tuesday afternoon, several students “retweeted” the following on Twitter: “I survived the imaginary shooting of Madison Central 2012. Not very many people can say that”
A link to a video also was posted on Twitter of what appeared to be two girls fighting in the hallway. The fight was broken up by teachers, and the video ended with what looked like hair on the ground that had been pulled out during the fight.
When asked if four fights in one day is unusual, Stewart said reports about fighting do not normally make it to the Central Office because discipline problems are usually taken care of by school administration.
One parent who contacted the Register said there were threats of gang violence, a shooting and “a lot of race stuff going on.” The parent said she had been to Central several times to talk about her concerns, but “they blow me off and nothing is ever done about it.”
But Stewart said the district had no reason to believe there is gang violence going on in Central. With a student population of almost 2,000, “there’s no way for every student to know everybody. So when you hear something, you don’t know whether or not it’s true. It’s a lot of kids, a lot of personalities, a lot of people in one place at one time every day.”
When students return from Thanksgiving break Monday, there will be “a little extra patrolling” in the hallways and “heightened awareness” among administration, teaching staff and the school resource officer (a sworn law enforcement officer who has specialized training to work with youth), Stewart said.
“A lot of times, these nice little holiday breaks make a big difference when everybody comes back Monday,” she said.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.