Families voice frustration at meeting after fights lead to class cancellation at St. Louis Park High School
On Tuesday night, parents shared their frustration over a pair of fights that forced St. Louis Park High School to close last week.
“What has happened during the school year by a few high school students and their parents is unacceptable,” declared Mindy McColgan, one of those who spoke before the school board. “From antisemitism, to threats, to fights in the hallways and parking lots. Can you tell us why these fights continue to happen? What is the safety measure going forward?”
Videos posted on social media showed the chaos that erupted at the end of the school day Thursday.
District officials say two groups of students got into a fight. Later, they say adults who don’t work at the school but were aware of the previous fight got into a second altercation.
School staffers and a Juvenile Response Officer – a new position – intervened to break up that incident.
Parents at the meeting say they are proud of their school district, but that there needs to be a plan in place to keep this from happening again.
“I want us to do better, our kids deserve better, our staff deserves better,” said parent Cheryl Gallagher-Watson. “They don’t go to school; they don’t get their degrees to teach to come and break up fights. It’s getting redundant, and we don’t deserve this anymore.”
Police arrested two women Thursday, but jail records show they were released later in the day.
Interim Superintendent Kate Maguire says both the district and police are investigating, including to learn whether any racial bias was involved.
She stated that what happened at the high school was ‘unacceptable under any circumstances.’
“It is particularly infuriating to me that adults who are not part of the school community can interfere to cause such harm and trauma,” Maguire said. “And for now, the distraction from the work at hand, which is teaching and learning.”
The Interim Superintendent told parents so far this school year there have been 52 student suspensions and 65 dismissals. School board members also say there have been nine fights in the same period.
Maguire told parents that moving forward, there will be an uptick in the police presence going in and out of the school, that students will have less transition going from class to class, and that access to the campus will be closed during lunch.
During the meeting, some parents called for a zero-tolerance policy for students engaging in violent behaviors.
“Why are these students allowed to come back to school?” McColgan asked board members. “Is a zero-tolerance policy for violence something that can be considered?”
Maguire and several board members say they are thankful that some students remained calm during the Thursday incident, staying in class or on their buses.
Authorities say there were few minor injuries like scrapes and bruises.
Maguire says the district is taking ‘swift and decisive action, including ‘crisis management and emergency plans’ being taught to staff, and that students involved in any wrongdoing would face discipline.
“I can share that actions will range from lesser consequences of dismissal and suspension to expulsion,” she explained. “It is possible that some participants may face criminal charges, however, that is completely determined by the police, not the school.”