LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez called an emergency meeting Monday night to address the rising violence at Lawrence High School.
City Councilor and School Committee members met to discuss school safety and the future of the state’s control over Lawrence Public Schools with Superintendent Cynthia Paris. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioner was invited to the meeting but sent a representative instead.
Parents who were in attendance were allowed to express their frustrations in public and many spoke passionately about their concerns after more than 20 brawls have erupted on campus in recent weeks, leaving teachers and staff injured and some students potentially facing charges.
“Our high school is in chaos. It’s in turmoil,” said Debo Brown, whose nephew attends school there. “Now it is to the boiling point where the lid had blown off the pot. These parents not only demand answers, they deserve answers.”
One parent told 7NEWS that her daughter has not been to school in more than a week because she is so scared.
At the meeting, many were calling for Paris’ resignation.
“I understand that a lot of these fights are going on and they are just happening but a lot of fights are being talked about beforehand and people are ignoring,” one parent said. “If you are not ready to do your job, resign.”
The district has been operating under state receivership for a decade and local officials say they are frustrated with what they call a lack of progress that has been made since then.
Paris has blamed the recent violence on a tough adjustment upon returning to class after a year of remote learning.
“We were definitely not prepared for the level of intensity of students’ emotional responses,” she said.
Paris has brought more police on campus and adjusted students’ schedules in an effort to curb the fighting.
“One of the reasons we made such a big ask in the proposal that we made to the legislature back in May was our concern about the underlying issues associated with mental health — period– and pediatric mental health after the year that the kids had of isolation and all the rest that came with no in-person school for a year,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in response to the reports.
Earlier in the day, members of the high school alongside the mayor and concerned community members staged a walk-in just before the morning bell.
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