'Like a sitting duck': Parents, students, teachers complain about violence, vandalism at Northeastern Middle School
The Northeastern School Board president said he was heartbroken and ashamed after multiple people complained about violence, lack of transparency and vandalism at Northeastern Middle School.
“I want to tell you, all the students and staff, safety is our number one priority,” President Mike Redding said Monday night, thanking those who spoke up about the problems.
Redding said the board is addressing the situation. It is a personnel matter, he said, so he couldn't say much.
“When it comes to safety … you should not be afraid to go to school,” he said. "I'm sorry; it should not happen."
Superintendent Stacey Sidle could not be reached for comment.
MORE:Three Dover Township firefighters injured at house fire
MORE:Two warrants issued in connection with furniture store shooting
MORE:Local basketball roundup: York Suburban girls advance to district semifinals
This isn't the first time residents addressed the board about similar problems. During the Feb. 6 meeting, board Vice President Tyler Kramlick said the board was aware of vandalism in the middle school bathrooms. Parents at the time told the board about their concerns over the vandalism and cited a lack of transparency because they didn't hear about it from the district until that meeting. They also listed what they heard was happening in the bathrooms, from mirrors being torn down to urine in the soap dispensers.
During the Feb. 20 meeting, Kramlick said the board heard the parents' concerns about the vandalism, and he is researching ideas to fix the problem, including possibly putting the sinks on the walls outside the bathrooms. Kramlick said if the administration doesn’t address this problem accordingly, he will recommend policy and budget changes.
Residents, school staff and students also brought up violence in the school.
One middle school student, Sydney Eschbach, said she was hit in her stomach area in the middle of the school year.
“I completely lost my breath,” she said, adding the student who hurt her received lunch detention for two days.
She was also kicked in the leg by another student. The kick was so hard she couldn't walk, the student said. Two of her friends had to help walk her down the hallway to her next class.
“It kind of scares me to think that other kids might be having this happen to them and not really doing nothing about it,” Sydney said.
She said she was transferred into the second assaulter's class. They worked out their problems, but Sydney worries about other students who are stuck in classes with their attackers.
It “doesn’t seem right to me,” she said.
When Sydney was done speaking, Redding thanked her and apologized for her experiences.
“You should not be assaulted at school,” he said. “You shouldn’t be crying to go to school. That’s not the environment we want for our students."
'I feel like a sitting duck': Seventh-grade math teacher Mattison Premata said she saw two students get in a fight where one student pinned the other against the wall. The teacher, who started in December, reported the incident. A few days later, the student who did the pinning threatened another student that he will use a weapon. Again, it was reported.
On Jan. 5, two students said "gotcha" while they pointed finger guns at Premata. She later heard them talking about automatic weapons. Premata told the board she spoke to the principal and recalled him saying he wondered daily if today is the day there will be an active shooter.
>>Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.
Premata reported a student shoulder-checked her after she talked to him because he was disrespectful in her class. She heard he had a day and a half of in-school suspension for the shoulder check and damaging an exit sign. A month later, the student crumpled up paper and threw it at her.
In early February, Primata was nearly hit in the face by a shoe that was dropped down a stairwell. A student admitted to it and received lunch detention.
“As a teacher, I feel like a sitting duck, waiting to be physically hurt in order for change to occur," she said.
A disconnect: Another teacher, Russell Blake, commented on how he noticed a change in the building as to how staff and students are treated within the past few years.
"We've changed there," he said, explaining it was the best place to work but now there is a disconnect.
Multiple parents said they were concerned about the lack of communication from the school, explaining the emails they get from the middle school come from different email addresses. Those emails also contain school updates on links, but those links aren’t always mobile friendly.
— Reach Meredith Willse at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.