WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A little less than one week after a fight broke out between students and a teacher at McNiel middle school sparked concern and comments on social media.
Some Wichita Falls parents had an opportunity to meet and ask questions with WFISD staff Monday morning.
The discussion took place after a meeting of the district safety and security committee on various security updates.
“I think all of us are here because we have really serious concerns where I feel often that I’m sending my kid into a battle zone,” a concerned parent said. “I’m trying not to get super emotional, but Saturday at dinner my 7th grader is teaching my 5th grader how to avoid getting hurt every day at school.”
The safety of students was the center of concern between parents and WFISD staff in an impromptu session Monday right after the safety and security committee meeting.
“I was told that the student that was bashing my daughter’s head in would not return to McNiel this year,” a concerned parent said. “She was back in less than two weeks. Now my daughter is homebound and I’m still paying for therapy out of my pocket.”
Acting Supt. Debbie Dipprey said the state of Texas is clear when it comes to discipline and safety at schools.
“This details in here for you what happens is required to happen if law enforcement determines there is an assault,” Dipprey said. “That is something that is described here as well, how that works. Where we get into the weeds and where we have difficulty is determining the difference between an assault and mutual combat.”
Dipprey said figuring out if it was a fight between two people who were friends yesterday but mad at each other today or if it was an assault is a discussion that has to happen within a course of an investigation.
“Our educators are required to investigate thoroughly and listen to all sides of any kind of incidents that occurs at school,” Dipprey said. “You want that for your child. You don’t want your child falsely accused by someone and an administrator takes that other child’s word for it. “
One thing that is clear is that finding a solution to the problem is something both parents and district officials want to find. But finding solutions is no easier than placing blame for fights.
One parent said the district should consider banning cell phones on campus but another disagrees.
“Those kids that are circling up that’s my main concern because if we start cutting that out then maybe those fights aren’t going to take place because they get cheered on and there’s Instagrams, there’s McNiel Fight, there’s McNiel Bathroom pics, I don’t know,” a concerned parent said.
“There’s been another teacher beat in this district that wasn’t, there’s no video, there’s no evidence,” another concerned parent responded.
Dipprey and the parents who came to the meeting believe even with no clear answers, dialogue is always useful. Because in the end, they both have the same goal of protecting the students and staff.
“I do want to thank you, you’ve given us lots to think about,” Dipprey said. “A lot will come out of this. I’m glad that you’re willing to take the time, that’s important. I will do all I can.”
During the committee meeting before the discussion, the safety and security committee discussed implementing metal detectors now in storage and how that process will work, as well as, requiring students to use ID cards to help with the problem of students going to campuses they aren’t supposed to.
A further discussion on both of those items will need to take place with the school board.