JAMESTOWN – Officials with Jamestown Public Schools have sent out a media release they say is intended to clarify what had happened last week when Jamestown High School was put in lock-down in response to fights that had broken out in the building.
The media release provides additional details on the incident that led the lock-down, acknowledging that there were actually two fights that took place on Wednesday, Nov. 6 – one of which moved from inside to outside of the high school building. The said both fights were initiated by the same group of three students and also said the School Resource Officer (SRO), normally on duty, was absent the day of the incident for unrelated matters. As a result, members of the Jamestown Police Department were called to the school to help respond to the fighting and while that response took place the school was put into lock down. There were also at least 15 teachers who immediately responded to the fight in the hallway.
“I would first like to commend and personally thank the many teachers and other faculty members who responded to last Wednesday’s incident,” said Paul Abbott, Jamestown School Board President. “It was a demonstration of their commitment to student safety. I was struck by how many staff intervened and how no additional students became involved in any way.”
The statement of clarification came Wednesday, only after the school board held a special, closed-door meeting Tuesday night to apparently discuss the incident – although specific details of what was discussed are not known because the meeting was not open to the public, including the media. This despite the board acknowledging it had determined several steps were decided upon and would be taken in order to work toward preventing similar incidents from happening in the future.
- Additional safety training and drills will take place with formal debriefings.
- If the JHS SRO is absent, a different JPD officer will be assigned to JHS that day.
- Additional radios will be provided for the JHS emergency response team.
- Updated photos of all JHS students will be made accessible to staff.
- Professional development will be dedicated to de-escalation training for staff.
- An investigation of a contemporary security system will be included in the potential capital project plan to modernize JHS.
- At-risk students will be identified for intervention at the Tech Academy where personalized learning plans will be completed prior to return to JHS.
“This is only the start of a list of actions that we will take to ensure all students are safe,” School Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said in the media release. “It is important that we learn from, and improve upon, our procedures to provide the safest environment for our children to learn. We have zero tolerance for any of the behavior that was seen at Jamestown High School last week. All students involved, if found guilty of the charges at a superintendent hearing, will receive the maximum legal consequence. Safety of our children is, and will continue to be, our number one priority.”
While the school board held its meeting in private, the Jamestown High School Parent Teacher Student Association held its scheduled monthly meeting inside the high school auditorium. That meeting was to include High School Principal Rosemary Bradley, so that those in attendance could learn more about the incidents and student safety in the high school. However, it was learned at the start of that meeting that Bradley would not be in attendance and was instead at the special school board meeting. According to the Post-Journal, her absence was criticized by many in attendance at the JHSPTSA meeting.
According to Abbott, it was his decision to have her attend the school board meeting, rather than the JHSPTSA meeting.
“After discussion with Dr. Apthorpe, I decided by mid-day Thursday that the board needed to hold a special meeting,” Abbott said. “Allowing for the 72 hours for public notice for a meeting of the board, a logical and realistic meeting date was set for Tuesday, November 12. I directed that JHS Principal, Dr. Rosemary Bradley, be made available to answer questions. In the days leading up to our meeting, every member of our board had multiple conversations with faculty, administrators, staff, parents and students. As I have stated before, the safety of our schools is priority number one. We are constantly looking at ways to improve and it is important that we look at it from a critical viewpoint so that we don’t make the same mistake twice.”
Abbott, who is a retired Jamestown police officer and detective, also defended holding the meeting in private, saying it was intended to serve as a debriefing for the school board.
“During my career, I was involved in numerous critical incidents of every scale and size, including dozens of debriefings,” Abbott stated. “I have learned from my experiences that although we laud the positive actions taken, it is more important to assess what should have or could have been done better. I was never involved in a debriefing where it was decided that everything was perfect. The point of our Board of Education meeting was to look at this incident and try to improve as a district in order to avoid these types of events in the future. Last night wasn’t the end of the board’s involvement in this, it was simply the first formal action taken.”
The next scheduled Jamestown School Board meeting is December 3 at 6 p.m. in the school administration building and is open to the public.