By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Mid-Del School leaders expressed concern about a rise in student behavior issues at schools.
Superintendent Rick Cobb said the recent shooting at a football game and changes in behaviors since the pandemic have led to discussions about in school safety measures. The tone of those talks has changed drastically over the past few years, he said.
“A few years ago, the idea of requiring clear backpacks in our schools or putting up a weapon detection system at our middle and high schools had come up, very few would have voiced support,” he said at the school board meeting on Sept. 11. “… Now opinions on those security measure seems to have changed and it didn’t just start with a shooting at a football game.”
The school district has experienced an increase in behavioral issues among students this year. In August, a total of 18 arrests and or citations were made at middle and high schools. The district saw eight arrests and/or citations during the same period in 2022, according to police records.
Midwest City High School had 11 arrests last month. On Aug. 16, just one week into the school year, two students were arrested for assaulting a principal. Six students were arrested Aug. 24 on charges including juvenile-fighting, disorderly conduct and assault and battery.
Most cases are handled through the municipal court system. That includes truancy, fighting in public, petit larceny, possession of marijuana, and assault and battery. The police department can send more violent offenses to the district court.
A rise in student behavioral problems is not unique to Mid-Del. Seventy percent of teachers, principals and district leaders said in a recent EdWeek Research Center survey that students are misbehaving more now than in 2019, up 66 percent in December 2021.
The pandemic has also continued to affect students’ motivation and morale. Eighty percent of educators said in a national survey fielded by the EdWeek Research Center in January of this year that the pandemic has made students less motivated to do their best in school. A third of educators described the students in their classes, schools, and districts as unmotivated.
During last week’s school board meeting, Cobb provided a public briefing on the shooting at the Choctaw football game and the events that followed. He said the district is also looking at ways to improve safety and security on-campus and asked for feedback from the board.
School board president Silvya Kirk agreed with Cobb’s assessment saying that “things have changed, the climate has changed, and people have changed.” She believes the district needs to take a hard look at new safety measures including metal detectors at schools.
“We need to at least look at it and get a team together to look at all the parameters,” Kirk said.
Board member Leroy Porter said the district has used metal detectors in the past with support from the community. He said many of the security needs will be covered in the bond issue that goes before voters on Oct. 10.
“I’m very thankful that the preplanning and the work that’s gone into this bond issue is going to cover a lot of the things that will keep people out of our buildings if they don’t belong there,” he said. “The security fences, adding new access points, adding new cameras.”
Board member Gina Standridge commended the district for its security measures at events and wants to see enhanced measures on campus. She said that could mean additional school resource officers and upgrades to doors.
All three high schools as well as Del City Middle School have a full-time school resource officer provided by Midwest City and Del City police departments. The school district also contracts security at the middle schools.
“We have a good partnership with the school district to keep the schools safe and secure,” said Midwest City Police Chief Sid Porter. “It’s a partnership that everyone works together to make happen.”
Board member Ed Daniel called for a multi-faceted approach. He agreed with the creation of a committee to study the issues as well as safety upgrades in the bond issue, reaching out to the community for input, as well as helping improve the culture and environment of the schools.
“Just having rules and laws does not work on its own,” he said. “We have jails that are full of folks who know the laws and know the rules but still commit the crimes.”
Board members Ed Daniel urged the district to look at programs that deal with the “heart of our students.”
The board agreed to recommend creating a committee to study the issue and potential safety measures and potentially adding more SROs at the schools.
Cobb thanked the board for their feedback and said he would work on the requests.