Special Report: Meridian Public School District

By: Tametria Conner Email
By: Tametria Conner Email

Every school year has its challenged. But some parents, faculty, and staff have told Newscenter 11 this year is worse in the Meridian Public School District.

The issues range from weapons, drugs, and sex on campus, to personnel matters.

In many cases, people within the district were reluctant to go on camera out of fear of losing their jobs. Even some parents expressed concern that their children might be targeted if they talked.

"It's a mess and I don't know who to blame," said a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity, because of fear of retaliation.

The teacher said the district is spiraling downward and students are suffering because of it.

"It's been made clear from day one that teachers are not in charge. The control has been taken away and we, I'm speaking for teachers as a whole, feel powerless," said the teacher.

This veteran teacher said problems have been present, but this school year, the lack of discipline is at an all-time high and teacher morale is at an all-time low.

"Teachers need to be allowed to go back in their classrooms and teach without fear of retaliation from students, parents, and central office," the teacher said.

"I was always told that I didn't speak about anything," said Linda Peaveyhouse, a former bookkeeper at Meridian High School.

For over four years, Peaveyhouse said she saw it all, but was told to keep quiet about it. Peaveyhouse said she was fired in October 2008 because her son and a student ran away together, and officials thought she was involved.

Peaveyhouse noted several incidents this school year, where she says policy was not enforced for every student and there's no consistency.

"Just not weapons; it was fighting, sex on campus between students," said Peaveyhouse. "I mean, there were multiple things that the kids have gotten away with, as I would call it. It was one instance where a boy had a box cutter and he gets expelled for 10 days, but we've had other instances where kids have knives and they take it away. And that's all."

Meridian superintendent Charlie Kent confirmed there were dozens of incidents this school year throughout the district, but there are a few that have many on alert: the recent Kate Griffin Junior High weapons incident, a student attack on a teacher at Northwest Junior High, a 6th grade Magnolia Middle School student with possession of crack cocaine and sex on campus at Meridian High. And many say they want to know how the district plans to tackle these issues.

"I'm not trying to hide it, color coat it or sweep it under the rug," said Kent. "They happened and we've dealt with them."

Kent said these are societal issues that are creeping into schools and he says the schools get blamed for it.

"I may take some heat for this. That's not a district issue," said Kent. "The district is part of something that's happening in society. The child didn't get the drugs from school. It was brought to school."

"My concern is the frequency or the severity of what's going on. We have a great responsibility here."

School board President Edward Lynch said policies are not always being followed and many are very weak. He said that's a problem.

"This community is speaking very plainly and very loudly about what they want to see ,and it's ultimately up the school board to give them what they want," said Lynch. "And basically, they want safe and orderly schools and an environment that's going to be conducive to a good education."

The full interviews with Peaveyhouse and the anonymous teacher are available for viewing on the site, in the video section on the right side of the home page.

In Part 2, Kent talks more about his reaction to these incidents and his plans to reduce school violence. Lynch will talk about policy changes for the next school year.

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