published Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Angry parents vent at Hamilton County Conversation

by Dan Whisenhunt
  • photo
    In this file photo Jim Coppinger speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office to become Hamilton County Mayor on Jan. 11, 2011.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Angry parents vented to county leaders Monday about the county’s wayward youth.

The parents, who attended County Mayor Jim Coppinger’s latest County Conversations meeting at East Lake Academy, at some points sounded exhausted by what they saw as out-of-control children enabled by irresponsible parents.

“It’s just getting ridiculous,” said East Lake parent Renee Sanderfer of recent acts of violence in Chattanooga.

Some of the parents blamed gangs. Though it wasn’t explicitly mentioned, within the last month there was another high-profile shooting at Coolidge Park. The incident, which has not been definitively linked to gang activity, sent city leaders scrambling to find ways to prevent future incidents.

Sanderfer and others put the blame squarely on the shoulders of parents.

“You’ve got to deal with parents first,” she said.

Pam Thompson, who teaches at East Lake Elementary School, also encouraged county leaders to work harder to address the problem of school bullying.

“It’s bad and it’s starting young as a result of some of the gang activity that these little children are seeing,” she said.

Coppinger said he understood their concerns.

“Their concern was our young people throwing their lives away committing crimes,” he said, adding that the county sheriff’s office is working with the Chattanooga Police Department on these problems. But he said the public has to step up to help the police, too.

Commissioner Joe Graham, who was also at the meeting, said often the only thing local leaders can do is listen.

“It’s going to take more than the government,” he said. “We can facilitate meetings like this to try to help get people more involved. It’s going to take more people in the community getting involved.”

Contact staff writer Dan Whisenhunt at or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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