Concerns of fighting at Minneapolis Public Schools prompts call for support at home
New data from Minneapolis Public Schools shows an increase in fighting between students, and a middle school parent is expressing concern.
An MPS parent said the fighting at Olson Middle School affected her son so much she had to pull him out of in-person classes.
Matt Harris, 12, walked the hallways for the first time at Olson Middle School last September.
“Matt is such a cool kid. He is tall. Just a beautiful smile, just bright,” Constance Moore, Matt’s mom, said.
But earlier this year, that smile started to fade.
“He was anxious, tearful, and just afraid,” Moore said.
Moore said that her son was traumatized from seeing fights in school several times a week.
“I myself was at the school and was able to witness there’s a fight going on over here and there’s a fight going on over there,” she said.
She pulled Harris out of the middle school in March for his safety and switched to the district’s online school, which is a full-time option for students.
“It’s heartbreaking because, number one, this is where he’s supposed to get an education,” Moore said.
New numbers obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS give a window into the fights reported across the district.
The fighting incidents refer to the number of referrals given to each student involved in a fighting incident. For example, if a fight involved five students, five fighting incidents would be recorded in the system.
From 2018 to 2019, fighting incidents inside MPS spiked. The district recorded 2,446 incidents in a single school year.
The numbers dipped in 2020 with 1,703 incidents and in 2021 with 97 incidents when students were at home for virtual learning during COVID-19.
MPS officials declined an interview to talk about the data, but said in a statement, “Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) does not tolerate fighting at any school. Our highest priority is the safety of our students and staff, and school leaders follow the MPS discipline policy for all incidents related to fighting. Our data indicates that fighting in our schools has steadily trended down since school year 2019.”
In school year 2022, the district reported 1,501 incidents.
“That’s a lot of fights, and we’ve got to try to get to these schools to no fights at all,” the Rev. Jerry McAfee, 21 Days of Peace founder, said. “I think what will help the schools is stronger parental support.”
21 Days of Peace has partnered with some schools in the district to curb violence.
He said some of the students fighting are dealing with trauma and other mental health challenges that the school can’t deal with on its own.
“I think for far too long, we’ve blamed the schools solely,” he said. “Everybody has got to play a role in this: the school, the city, the county, the state and the parents. Everybody has to be accountable.”
Moore agreed. She explained it’s a combination of accountability.
“We can do better if we all work together,” she said.
Moore told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she brought these concerns to the school and was told by an official her son was “more sensitive than others.”
She said she also attended a Voice of the Village school meeting to address the fighting, hoping for a change.
In its statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Minneapolis Public Schools advised that “Families are always welcome to reach out to us if they have any concerns about their child’s school’s climate.”