Howard High: Out of control, or safer than ever? - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Ricks: Howard School safer than home for many students

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By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Many Howard High students "are safer at school than they are anywhere else," according to the School Board member who represents Howard's district.  George Ricks, Board member for District 4, tells Eyewitness News, "When there's a fight at school, there's someone there to break it up.  It's not always like that in the neighborhood."

In the past 3 weeks, a total of 23 Howard High students have been suspended and arrested for fights that have broken out on campus.

Is Howard out of control, or are these incidents being blown out of proportion?  The numbers show a gradual reduction in fighting, but one Howard grandmother isn't convinced.

The series of before-school fights at Howard got the attention of Constance Hampton.  In the latest incident last Friday, her two granddaughters were involved and suspended.  She says one was a victim, and the other was trying to break up the fights.

Hampton said, "It was two girls fighting and my granddaughter tried to break it up. Then two girls jumped her sister.  She went over there to try to break that up." The oldest student, a senior did not want to be identified for this story. She said the School Resource Officers and some teachers got involved in separating the students, and a male teacher suffered a broken foot.

Hampton says Howard students get little adult supervision.  Board member George Ricks visits the school every day, and paints a different picture. "I feel they're doing a good job at Howard, but I understand why grandparents feel this way. You hear these stories, you don't know what to believe."

Hampton says she can't even find out how long her granddaughters are suspended.  She only knows they cannot attend school.  "When you go try to find out about your kids, the administrators get smart with you, they tell you to get out of the school, they don't want you in the school," she says.

Principal Paul Smith said Monday he was busy with meetings all day, but in a phone interview, said he was always available to help parents.  Board member Ricks says parents are welcome at Howard, and wishes more would visit.

Ricks said, "These students will learn, if they fight at Howard, they will ride to jail. We've got to start somewhere and take our babies back.  Because these same students that we're suspending, will be back in school soon, and we're going to graduate them."

Hampton says her granddaughters have learned a lesson.  "If you see a fight, stay out of it," she said. "Because if you try to break it up, you'll be in juvenile for disorderly conduct."

Despite the recent flurry of bad news, the Behavior Summary Report released by Hamilton County Schools shows that Howard's suspensions and expulsions have dropped dramatically during the past 3 years, going from 979 in the 2007-08 school year to 272 in the 2009-10 year.  
You can see the complete report for all Hamilton County Schools Read the full report here.

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