LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) – Education officials voiced their frustrations during a school board meeting on Wednesday night over knock-down, drag-out fights that have been breaking out on an almost daily basis at Lawrence High School.
Superintendent Cynthia Paris says the pandemic’s effect on in-person learning may be taking a toll on the students’ mental and emotional health.
“We had prepared that our students would need additional social and emotional support,” she said. “We did not anticipate the high intensity of emotional responses our students are experiencing.”
On Friday, two fights broke out among 14 students in different parts of the campus following an off-campus pickup flag football game, according to school officials.
Most of the students involved were in the honor roll with no previous history of physical altercations, school officials said.
The district held disciplinary hearings for the students, which resulted in restorative justice meetings, suspensions, and high-level emotional support programming.
During the disciplinary hearings held on Tuesday, two more fights broke out, resulting in administrators being hurt while intervening, school officials said.
The administers are said to be doing well and rejoined the high school community Thursday.
Another fight that happened in front of police officers during dismissal on Wednesday led to the arrest of three students, school officials added.
Lawrence Public Schools plans to add more school resource officers and two more community police officers at the high school.
“Our students are in crisis,” Paris said. “What we’re learning is that independent of all the resources that we have at hand, it’s still not enough.”
Paris added that the district hopes investigations, counseling, and more policing will help.
“This is going to be day by day in terms of the short-term responses and long-term solutions,” she said.
Kim Barry, the president of the Lawrence Teachers’ Union said the district’s educators are at their wits end too.
“They’re on the verge of breaking down themselves on a regular basis,” she said. “They have to get the courage to come in themselves, to work in the environment and then have the energy to support their kids that are feeling so fearful.”
On Thursday, parents flocked to a PTA meeting — the recent violence at the top of their minds. Many saying that blaming the incidents on a tough adjustment back into a classroom setting is just an excuse.
“My son was home remote learning and he’s not coming to school beating people up,” Kelma Weakley said.
City officials announced there will be a joint meeting of the Lawrence School Committee and Lawrence City Council on Monday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.
The full school board meeting can be viewed here.
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