Parents lead push for change at Indianapolis high school: ‘Stop letting kids rule the school’

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By Jill Glavan

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 9, 2014) — Several days after parents protested in front of an Indianapolis school, administrators held an open forum to try and turn things around.

Parents and students said George Washington Community High School, just west of downtown Indianapolis, is out of control and they’re fed up.

In fact, FOX59 obtained a video of students fighting in class this school year, distributed on Facebook in August.

Principal Emily Butler, who’s new to the school, presented a plan Thursday to stop the fights and teach kids to work together.

“(We’ll) ensure that kids are going to class and (that should) reduce some of the conflicts that we’ve seen with our middle school students,” Butler said.

One parent even pleaded for teachers to “stop letting kids rule the school.” That’s something junior Jennyfer Lara knows well.

“It’s like students dominating the teachers, because they don’t want to go to class,” Lara said.

Washington has long faced problems and fights like the one caught on camera are not uncommon in the school, said students. Despite it being on a list of schools taken over by the state for failing grades, last year IPS got it back, after arguing that the takeover was not working.

Parent John Agee was optimistic after Thursday’s meeting.

“Everything should start moving in the right direction, as long as everyone puts in the effort,” Agee said.

As a student, though, Lara wasn’t so sure.

“I think we should have a person walk around the halls and ask the students, ‘What do you think about your school?'” Lara said.

All sides agreed, at least, that the old way of doing things had not been working and a lot needs to be done to fix years of problems and turn Washington in the right direction.

With a history working in Baltimore’s urban schools, Butler said the problem is not unique and she believes it can be fixed.

“I think a lot of our families were just excited to have the opportunity to be heard. That’s something that a few commented maybe hadn’t happened in the past,” Butler said.

Starting Monday, middle school students will be separated into small groups that go from class to class together, with an adult escorting them to prevent fights and loitering in the hallways.

The Peace Learning Center will also be brought into the school to offer classes on conflict resolution.