Parents showed out to Brandywine's school board meeting to discuss school safety. (Unsplash)

Parents plead for safety in heated Brandywine board meeting

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Parents showed out to Brandywine's school board meeting to discuss school safety. (Unsplash)

Parents showed out to Brandywine’s school board meeting to discuss school safety. (Unsplash)

Complaints about safety at Springer Middle School at Monday night’s Brandywine School District meeting devolved into a shouting match between a board member and a parent.

About 12 parents and several students told the Brandywine School District the same thing:  

They’re concerned and outraged about the lack of action after bullying, fights and other events  have compromised student and staff safety.

Most of the speakers referred to an incident that involved Springer Middle School Principal Tracy Woodson. 

It was unclear exactly what occurred, but parents at the meeting said Woodson was trying to break up an altercation between students and ended up on the ground in need of an ambulance  and out of work for a week.

Efforts were unsuccessful Tuesday to get more details about the incident from the district.

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The complaints escalated to the point that board President John Skrobot III threatened to kick people out of the meeting. 

“There is a civility clause that says that if you’re going to come and be in attendance, you are going to have to act civilly, and we will pursue that, we will pursue that,” he said.

What did parents say?

Dylan Thompson, a parent, said it’s embarrassing that parents have to come to the school board meeting every month to talk about the same issue. 

“The smug look you had Superintendent Hohler when she [another parent] talked about safety, half the board is not even concerned and not even looking,” Thompson said. “There’s no care. What are we going to do to make these kids feel safe?”

He accused the board members of only caring about shaking hands and kissing babies while not doing what they were elected to do – keep staff and students safe. 

Board member Ralph Ackerman then began to shout.

“You are wrong, excuse me! We certainly do care,” he said. “No, I’m not attacking the parents!”

Kevin McLaughlin, a parent, said Woodson is doing everything he can to keep Springer safe, but he needs help from the district. 

“I came here in November by myself,” he said. “These people all finally came on their own tonight and thank god for that. I was one of one in November, and now I’m one of 50.”

Parents called for an audit of the student code of conduct, revised disciplinary measures and intervention programs that deal with bullies and others causing harm to staff and students. 

“My son will not be in Springer next year so you can use that $17,240 or whatever the state gives you to maybe help another child or help these other kids out there,” he said, “but my son isn’t the only one Springer is losing in June.”

Warren Stradley said his child came home back in October after being bullied and pleaded with him and his wife to be homeschooled. 

“The code of conduct is a huge problem and there’s so many loopholes in it,” he said. “A kid can do whatever he wants and get a slap on the wrist.”

Rebecca Campbell’s daughter also goes to Springer Middle School.

“She has been tearful coming home and before bed because she fears the violent atmosphere at Springer,” she said. 

Campbell repeated some of the comments that she’s heard from other concerned Springer parents, which includes children getting their head bashed into the wall, students being afraid of the hallways and running to class to avoid bullies, and fears of sexual assault.

Another parent said some teachers allow vaping in class.

The board agreed to evaluate the code of conduct and encouraged the parents to email them with suggestions on changes.

There were also complaints about safety, water damage, mold and mice at Mount Pleasant High School. 

There’s even a puddle in the band room that is dubbed “the forever puddle,” multiple students said, since it’s been there for as long as they can remember.

Skrobot agreed to talk to the facilities department and find solutions. 

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