Task Force Deals With School Violence

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

March 23, 2006

Between threatened school staff, student fights, and weapons brought to school, Charlottesville school officials are trying to find a way to deal with this escalating violence.

The school system has created a 15-person task force to figure out the best way to deal with the violence. Parents Thursday said it’s not soon enough. This afternoon a student at Charlottesville High School was arrested for bringing a gun or BB gun to the school.

“I have a child that attends elementary school that is scared while he's at school,” said concerned parent Monique Banks.

Banks has five kids in city schools and she's concerned about increasing violence.

“There's a lot of violence going on. Student on student violence and teacher on student violence and I do believe the issues need to be addressed,” said Banks.

Charlottesville Police even say they're responding to more calls.

“We've seen a level of activity in our schools, particularly the middle and high school, that should concern us,” said Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo.

Now school officials have created a task force to study the problems.

“If we've got a problem, then we all need to pull together to see what we need to do. Because what's happening in the schools is generally symptomatic of what's happening in the community,” said W.T. Lewis, head of the newly created task force.

"Our school system has failed. They have failed to promote a safe environment and failed to give our teachers the tools they need,” said parent Kenneth Jackson.

This year, 13 staff members were either threatened or assaulted at Buford Middle School, fights have broken out at Charlottesville High School, and kids carry weapons to school.

“[There was] a young man a couple of months ago who was suspended from school for bringing a knife. Actually he was bringing a knife for his own protection because a week before that he had been ganged and beaten down,” said Jackson.

Police have seven officers stationed at schools. They do random searches with police dogs, all to deter violence. School officials say they'll be looking at current programs and considering new options, like adding surveillance cameras to increase safety.

“I am very happy that they are looking into the issue and are concerned about it,” said Banks.

Even though Banks is happy they are taking action, it may be too late. She has already moved her family to Albemarle County and said she's pulling her kids out of the Charlottesville School System at the end of the year.

The task force meets for the first time at 9 a.m. Friday morning at Charlottesville High School and hopes to bring its preliminary findings to the school board next week.

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