"Springhill Junior and Senior High School can no longer claim a safe environment that it once could," said Nellie Sherrill, a community member who is concerned for the safety of students transferring to Springhill from Sarepta, Shongaloo and Cotton Valley.
Speaking at a past Webster Parish School Board meeting, Sherrill cited reasons such as rampant fighting in restrooms and classrooms, vulgar language and disrespect to teachers and peers, and "students bringing cameras into restrooms while forcing other students to do things that are despicable and humiliating and then publishing the acts on You Tube."
"When people with inside information tell you that you don't want your children or grandchildren to go to Springhill High, it gets my attention and I know it would get yours, too," Sherrill said to the board before they considered revising decisions made concerning school consolidation and reconfiguration.
Responding to Sherrill's disturbing comments about the condition of safety and discipline at Springhill Jr/Sr High, WPSB member Jerry Lott requested a thorough investigation by a committee, with support of central office personnel to be done within the next 30 days so the issues could be formally addressed.
Webster Parish School Board Child Welfare and Attendance Supervisor Kevin Washington addressed the charges made by Sherrill at the last school board meeting.
"We have school resource officers, who are paid by the school board and local entities such as Minden and Springhill police departments and Webster Sheriff's Office," Washington said.
In south Webster, a school resource officer serves Lakeside, Doyline, Union and Central.
Minden Police provide an officer that serves Minden High, Webster Jr. High, the Achievement Center and Minden elementary schools on call. A third resource officer balances time among Shongaloo, Sarepta and Cotton Valley. Springhill schools are served by a fourth officer.
"Of course most discipline problems happen at the junior high and high school levels," Washington said. "So that is where the resource officers spend most of their time.
Washington explained that because the officer serving the Springhill area includes only one Jr/Sr high school, the officer is able to spend the vast majority of time at that location.
"We are blessed and fortunate to have those persons in our schools," Washington said. "Since Columbine, it is good to have those officers as a resource for us. So we do have officers in our schools present daily and visible."
Washington was referring to a massacre that occurred at Columbine High School April 22, 1999, where two students embarked on a massacre killing 12 students, one teacher and injuring 21 students. The two students then committed suicide.
According to Wikipedia it is the fourth-deadliest school massacre in United States history, after the 1927 Bath School disaster, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and the 1966 University of Texas massacre and the deadliest for an American high school.
The Wikipedia article also said the shooting resulted in an increased emphasis on school security and stirred discussion centered on the nature of high school cliques, subcultures and bullying, as well as the role of violent movies and video games in American society.
All Webster Parish school resource offers are required to report how many visits they made, if they checked the school and any security problems that might need to be forwarded.
WPSB member Brandon Edens said he feels exaggerated information is being distributed.
"Another board member and I talked about some of the things that were said that night," Eden said. "We first heard that it was 33 girls that got into a fight in the restroom and the school was locked down. (Then) I talked to the principal," Eden continued. "It was two girls that got into a fight.
"They were stopped, escorted out, and the bell was held for one minute," Edens continued. "Our parents in Springhill seem to want to call [the media] every time little Johnny is upset. I'm sick of everything being blown out of proportion, and no one wants to step up and clarify what really is going on."
Washington then addressed school lock-downs.
"All of our schools are encouraged to do lock-downs," he said. "It's part of what the schools are supposed to do. So yes, you might hear of a school being locked down in order to do a drill."
In March, Lakeside Jr/Sr High school performed such a lock-down. Parents updated Facebook pages and left comments on the Press-Herald Web site wondering what happened.
One such comment read in part, "All this coverage of school issues leaves me wondering why the paper didn't report on the threat at Lakeside on Monday. Still haven't heard much about it but I called the school that day and they said there was no issue they were aware of. Then my child gets home to tell me they were on lock-down in the gymnasium all day. I guess being right in the building is the perfect place to be during a threat?" Written by Albert, on 23-03-2011.
WPSB Superintendent Butch Williams said in an interview that while a small incident may have occurred, school officials saw an opportunity to perform a lock-down, even though there was no threat to student safety. He equated lock-down drills to tornado drills and said they are performed to ensure readiness and safety, should there ever be a need.
Washington said that students in all schools sometimes make poor choices and that he hated to see one school and one incident highlighted in such a negative public manner.
"You can take any school, and manipulate information and make them look just as bad – if persons would do that," Washington said. "It is unfortunate that such a litany of things were given that particular night."
(Editors note: This is the second part of a two-part series on charges levied against Springhill Jr./Sr. school.)