Halifax County School Board decided it was best to beef up security at football games at Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium when they met Thursday evening.
Following a presentation on discipline by Halifax County Middle School principal Dawn Miller and Halifax County High School principal Michael Lewis, vice chairman Roy Keith Lloyd suggested paying law enforcement to serve as security at football games.
The idea, Lloyd said, was if they paid them, they could stipulate location.
Police from the South Boston Police Department and Halifax County Sheriff’s Office typically supervise home football games.
According to Lewis, there have been six incidents this year that resulted in disciplinary action on athletic fields.
He also said there have been 119 incidents in classrooms, 32 in hallways or stairs, seven in the cafeteria and seven outside of the high school.
Of those incidents, 12 students were involved in fights, 12 disrespected school employees, 20 violated school policy with their cellphone, 21 disrupted classrooms or bus rides, 28 students demonstrated acts of defiance and 68 were tardy or absent from school.
He further explained that there have been five fights this school year, but multiple students were involved in some fights. He also noted that some charges have been filed as a result.
There are roughly 1,477 students at the high school.
As a result of those incidents, Lewis told the school board there have been 82 out of school suspensions this year so far and 36 in-school suspensions issued.
At the middle school, there have been 45 disciplinary notices issued this school year resulting from nine classroom or campus disruptions, seven classroom or bus disruptions, six fights with no or minor injury, two attendance issues, two electronic cigarettes and two acts of vandalism of school property, according to Miller.
Miller also told the school board that 22 students had been suspended this school year so far and nine had received in-school suspension.
During his presentation, Lewis explained to the board that he was being faced with a generation who are being challenged to vandalize school property on TikTok and reinforced the need to address the structural issues at the high school such as the enclosed stairwells.
To help address student conduct, Lewis has held an orientation with students on Zoom, have met with law enforcement and met with Kara Comer and Tiffany Russell, both of juvenile court services. He has sought information on positive programs that would help with student behavior and has sought advice on the proper time to seek charges.
He also told the school board Thursday that all assistant principals at the high school should have access to a student’s discipline history in Infinite Campus. Lewis also said he’s in need of a screen in his office to view security camera footage, surveillance cameras in the high school parking lot and the football stadium and a device to allow teachers to directly buzz an assistant principals’ office.
Lewis also reminded the board that when it comes to discipline, there’s always a balance.
“Our teachers are well trained. We could work on a few things, but we do a lot of things right,” he said.
Regardless, Lloyd said he had received “countless” phone calls regarding discipline matters. He said parents of middle and high school students are concerned about the vulgar language being used in the hallways.
He told the board that they should have “zero tolerance” for that type of behavior, and “if 94% are doing well, remove the 6% that are causing disruptions.”
The ED-2 trustee went on to talk about videos he had seen of fights at the high school and videos of students ripping paper towel dispensers off the walls.
“We need to have standardized sanctions. We need to remove disruptions,” said Lloyd.
ED-7 trustee Keith McDowell said he also had talked to parents who were embarrassed by the actions of some at the homecoming football game. He also asked Lewis, “How do you handle an assault charge?”
Lewis said either the school resource office would handle it, or that he could fill out an affidavit.
McDowell claimed a student assaulted another individual at the homecoming game, but Lewis insisted there were no fights at the game.
The high school principal said there were disruptions at the game that administration stopped from becoming altercations. He also noted that there were over 12 officers from the SBPD and HCSO.
Lloyd also noted that when he goes to local Comet football games, officers are typically located at one end zone and suggested they could better monitor the crowd if they were placed around the stadium.
ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds reminded the board that parents also play a role in making sure their child behaves at school and on the school’s campus and told everyone they shouldn’t be pointing fingers at each other.
Edmunds, a police officer with the South Boston Police Department, reminded the board of the more than 1,400 students at the high school.
“And we expect nothing to happen,” he asked before urging the board and administration to be consistent in disciplining students.
Later in the meeting, Lloyd made a motion to allocate funds to employee law enforcement at a rate to be determined by the superintendent and high school administration to allow police to serve as security at football games. ED-8 trustee Walter Potts seconded the motion, which was approved at a 6 to 0 vote with Edmunds abstaining.
Also Thursday evening, the school board received an update on the impending January salary increase for teachers and support staff.
It will cost the school system $809,892 to implement the salary increase.
With the new salary scale, teachers and support staff would receive additional annual increases ranging from $3,473 to $12,087.
The board also heard from a concerned parent, Jamie Brown, whose 4-year-old daughter was dropped off at the wrong bus stop while riding the bus with a substitute bus driver.
She urged the transportation department to train substitute bus drivers to read the name tags they ask students to wear each day with their name, bus number and bus stop.