Recent incidents concerning students at both Bradwell Institute and Liberty County High School have resulted in the suspension and ultimate expulsion of those involved in fights on March 11 at LCHS and March 21 at Bradwell, according to both parents and Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry.
On March 11, Liberty County Sheriff Officer David Bruno, the on-duty officer at LCHS, observed two female students fighting, and several others fighting on the floor. All students were eventually separated and escorted to the office to make statements concerning the incident. According to Mahogany Johnson, one of the student’s parents, the incident involved multiple students, and her daughter jumped into the fray to assist her friend. Johnson said that her daughter received a hit to the face, and only defended herself.
In a completely separate incident on March 21, eight students at Bradwell got into an altercation on the bus ramp. According to a Hinesville Police Department report, Officer James Fulwood approached a group of students to de-escalate a verbal dispute.
The students ignored the request and became physical with each other, and there was an immediate push of students moving towards the fight, the report read.
A teacher fell to the ground after being pushed around trying to separate a group of girls, the report continued. Additional HPD officers arrived on scene as all students involved were escorted back inside by administration. All the students were released back to their parents without incident, and Bradwell principal Toriano Gilbert signed juvenile complaints against eight female students.
“We have systems in place, that if students are having problems with others, they need to go to an adult and get help,” Perry said. “Under no circumstances will we tolerate violence in our schools. There is a code of conduct we have to follow.
Both incidents resulted in a 10-day suspension for all students involved, and expulsion. According to Perry, both principals followed the code of conduct, and made their decisions based on the severity of the situation.
The code of conduct details four levels of discipline, each with its own list of possible consequences. Both fights, Perry said, escalated to level IV. Several students expelled were athletes.
Discipline management techniques include: 10 days out-of-school suspension with a referral for disciplinary tribunal hearing; strict probation with a Behavior Support Plan; financial restitution for the repair of any damage caused to school-related environment; and any other disciplinary technique that positively promotes the student Code of Conduct and desired character traits, the code reads.
“The short backstory is that my child was jumped at school, and due to her protecting herself, which is obvious on both school video as well as cell phone video, she was expelled from school until January 2020,” parent Courtney Hernandez said. “My daughter is a sophomore athlete with no disciplinary issues.”
“My daughter was railroaded,” Patricia Haynes said. “My daughter was helping her friend. She didn’t swing at anybody, and pushed the girl back in self-defense. She received a bruise and scratch down her face, and was expelled for the rest of the school year, and half of next year too. My child is not bad, and it’s not fair to expel the girls trying to break up the fight.”
Perry stands by the decision made by Gilbert and LCHS principal Stephanie Woods, he said. “I support the decision that the administrators made out there.”
School law grants the principals more power over their schools than the superintendent, resource officer, or any other central staff member, Perry said. The law gives that discretion to the principal to determine the severity of the offense.
“I’m sure parents are disappointed and I am too,” Perry said. “It’s a situation that we don’t have a choice. If we send a signal that this is okay, someone will get hurt. I apologize and I am sorry for the parents and students, but this is something that they have to learn a lesson from. We try every day to keep our students out of situations like this. It’s too dangerous to let kids think they can do group fighting and come back the next day. I have a responsibility to keep our schools safe.”
Perry emphasizes that all expelled students will not be denied their education, and can continue at the alternative school, Horizons Learning Center.
Parents and students not satisfied with the decision of the tribunal officer can make an appeal to the Liberty County Board of Education. If the board decides to uphold the original decision, the next and last step is to appeal with the State Board of Education.
LCSS staff members encourage students and parents to report issues either in person, or through the Safe Schools Hotline at 1-877-SAY-STOP.