Verona school district to implement new safety policies for 2019 school year in response to fights

Verona school district to implement new safety policies for 2019 school year in response to fights

In response to fights that broke out at Verona Area High School last Thursday, Superintendent Dean Gorrell sent out an email to parents and staff of the Verona Area School District regarding new policies that will be implemented in the 2019 school year.

In the email, Gorell explains the fights “stemmed from interrelated personal disputes that escalated over the course of the day,” resulting in an injury to a staff member and resulting in “significant distress” to the students who witnessed the fights.

Lt. Dave Dresser with the Verona Police Deparment said charges are still pending for the three students who were arrested but plan on filing recommendations for charges with the district attorney early next week. Dresser said three students were arrested and the police deparment plans to make a referral on a fourth student for disorderly conduct and battery, as well as issuing five municipal citations for those who played a lesser role.

Verona Area School District’s public information officer Kelly Kloepping confirmed that “18 students have been suspended out of school. That number includes those students who participated directly and those who used social media in an effort to incite further disturbances. The length of suspensions varied from one day to to the remainer of the school year with potential for carry-over into the next school year.”

The email states the school district worked closely with the Verona Police Department over the past week, and noted additional consequences and charges are pending.

The email also offers an apology for falling “far short of hitting the mark” of timely communication about the events.

Gorrell notes that in response to the events, moving forward, the school will hire three full-time security assistants for the high school, provide an anonymous tip line for students to report incidents without fear of retaliation, ensure there is a staff presence in the hallways during passing times in between classes, remind students that if they see something, say something, continue to provide social emotional support groups for students, encourage proactive conflict resolution for students to prevent physical altercations, and continue to support staff’s efforts to build positive relationships with all students.

The Verona Area School District’s director of safety said, “We’re just trying to stay focused on the things that we can work on within our four walls in terms of building a good community, encouraging people that if they see something, to say something.”

The email also notes that an additional staff member will be stationed at the high school visitor entrance with a two-way radio during the lunch hour that will be linked to administration and the school resource officer.

Gorrell’s email states that when parents or guardians arrive at school in response to their student’s involvement in a dispute of any kind, only the person who is listed in the school database will be allowed to enter the school.

The email states that any student who is suspended out of school must “complete a re-entry meeting with high school administration prior to readmission,” may also need to consult with local law enforcement, create a victim safety plan, sign a student behavior contract and utilize restorative practices, and may be placed on “revised student educational programming” when appropriate.

A new fight intervention protocol is expected to start in the fall of 2019, according to the email. The email states, “The protocol is rooted in the goals of standardizing a response to physical altercations, preventing student injuries, preventing staff injuries and minimizing law enforcement intervention and potential consequences.” The email states that a response team will be formed at the high school who will be “fully trained in this protocol.”

The email concludes that the district has reassigned tasks, changed protocols and created built-in system backups to ensure the school district “doesn’t leave our staff, students and parents in the dark in the future.”

The Verona Area School District is implementing new safety policies for the 2019 school year. This is in response to the fights that broke out last week that injured staff and students and resulted in multiple arrests. #News3Now

— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) May 17, 2019

Dresser said, “I think adding security is a positive step” and that these changes “minimize the potential for conflict.” He added, “In concept, these changes are positive and we hope they continue to involve us when necessary,” however, ” there is some frustration when we deal with some of the same kids over and over. We are not really sure what the answer is. There needs to be consequences at some level; either at home or at school or through law enforcement if the other two fail.”

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