Parents voice frustrations over East Hamilton Middle discipline

Principal pledges to enforce policies, starting Friday

Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / Parents are asked to fill out sheets with their concerns, feedback and possible solutions. Parents gather for a meeting Thursday with administrators at East Hamilton Middle School to discuss student behavior, an increase in violence at the school, and other issues.

Many East Hamilton Middle School parents are outraged.

After ongoing issues with student misbehavior, around 200 parents gathered at the school Thursday evening to demand administrators enforce their own disciplinary policies, starting immediately.

"You have our word that we're going to enforce all of our policies, all of our procedures, starting tomorrow," Principal Kristen Childs told them.

The meeting was called after parents felt two incidents, one involving a knife brought to school and another involving physical assault, were met with too much leniency.

But those incidents are among dozens that parents said administrators have minimized or ignored. Parents even cited small infractions like dress code violations and tardiness issues that administrators have let slide.

"It's the everyday occurrences that are causing the situations," said Sara Diruscio, a parent.

Billy Stewart, another parent, said the district's Code of Acceptable Behavior is not being followed.

"My role in this is to discuss the inconsistencies between the discipline requirements of the COAB and its execution down to the middle school, and what might be intentional manipulation with discipline agreements to minimize the severity of the discipline to make the middle school look better to third parties," Stewart said.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County teachers cite student behavior, lack of support as reasons for leaving)

Childs assured parents the school was following procedure.

But several outspokenly disagreed with Childs.

"Teachers are writing referrals according to COAB, handing it over to administration, and referrals are being misplaced or not followed through at all," Diruscio said.

Other parents shared their children's experiences being bullied or assaulted while administrators issued short suspensions to the offender, who returned and repeated the same behavior.

(READ MORE: 30% of Hamilton County Schools third graders may need summer literacy tutoring)

Childs said school officials are actively working on reevaluating some discipline procedures and behavior plans.

"If you're not enforcing what's already in place, why create a new plan you're not going to enforce?" said Mark Bender, a parent.

The meeting concluded with attendees agreeing to form a parent committee to develop improved discipline procedures while administrators promised to strictly enforce the existing Code of Acceptable Behavior.

Contact Carmen Nesbitt at cnesbitt@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @carmen_nesbitt.