Are Chatham County Schools Safe? - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Are Chatham County Schools Safe? - Parent Resources

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Some parents believe there is a growing problem at Savannah-Chatham County schools, violence.

But is that fact or fiction?

News 3 went through dozens of incident reports from the past school year, here is what we found.

There is not one school that is worse than any other, and all ages can and are affected.

In this school year so far, incidents involving guns, knives and school officials hit or attacked happened at 12 different elementary schools, 10 different middle schools and 8 different high schools around Chatham County.

What do those numbers mean, and what is the school system doing to stop them from happening?

"I'm with Campus police. We are here today to do a weapons search."

It's a show of force outside and inside West Chatham Middle School. An unannounced sweep of the entire school involves officers, dogs, and a lot of coordination and patience.

"Anything in your pockets should be in your hands at this time," said the officer to the students.

The students are taken from class, pockets inside out. Everything that was there is now in their hands. Even the trash cans are removed to make sure no one dumps anything illegal.  

Student resource officers use metal detectors to sweep students' bodies, as the dogs take laps around all the classrooms, checking every corner.  

It happens in every High School and Middle School in the district several times a year, all under the watchful eye of principals like Dr. Troy Brown.

"At this point most of the children in the district know that we do this, so there's no surprise to them," explained Dr Brown. "I think they want to hold up the integrity of school and do the right thing."

"When we initially started to do these sweeps we would find all kinds of contraband," said Chief Ulysses Bryant of the Savannah-Chatham Schools Campus Police. "We would find weapons including knives and guns and some considerable quantities of drugs. Compared to 15-16 years ago, we are down to 5% or less"

Campus Police Chief Ulysses Bryant uses sweeps like these as one of the tools to keep schools and students safe.
"When parents leave their children with our teachers and principals, I think they can safely say these people will put their lives on the line to protect a child," said Chief Bryant.

But are they really safe?  

News 3 obtained all the violent incident reports from the school system in the last year.  dozens of pages.  

Students accused of everything from punching teachers to attacking school personnel to bringing knifes and guns in school. Kids from elementary school to high school are involved.

"When you are talking about a district with 35,000-36,000 students and you are talking about 100 incidents, to me that's a small percentage," explained Chief Bryant. "But one is too many."

One is too many for parents, especially one like what Lakeshia Wade's son says happened at Derenne Middle School last month.  

A fight that they say was the result of bullying.

"They started jumping on me. I ran into Officer Mitchell and then he pepper sprayed me, picked my cousin up, bammed him on the ground."

"If something happens to my child from this point, I am totally holding Chatham County responsible," explained Lakeshia Wade.

"Bullying is one of the most under-reported incidents in any school district, but have we turned a deaf ear to Derenne? I would disagree with that," said a defiant Chief Bryant.

And as for the Resource officer who pepper sprayed the boy?

"I felt that his actions was in accordance with SOP, Standard Operating Procedure, he used restraint," explained the Chief.

"They (Resource Officers) go to great lengths and put themselves in harms way to use that minimum force in a school environment and finding the same amount of resistance that an officer on the street wouldn't tolerate."

5000 Chatham County employees are responsible for the safety of 36,400 students every day.  

And Chief Bryant says they are up to that task.

"Are Chatham County Schools safe?"
"I do say that without hesitation because my wife is at one," explained Chief Bryant. "We got grandchildren at one. So every day they go to school. I don't have any reservation about them going. This is where we live."

"Even in my home," said Bryant. "I would say yes my home is safe. But is it to the point I am guaranteed nothing is going to happen? I can't do that in my own home."

School officials say the biggest new problem they are dealing with is bullying, especially on social media.

Facebook posts and threats are moving from the web to schools.

West Chatham Middle School has even started using a bullying form for students or parents to express their problems.

But Chief Bryant says his hands are tied, because in many cases the laws haven't caught up to the technology.


On Your Side: Additional Resources


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