Parents pull students from classes

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 1999

The Natchez Democrat

Nearly 150 parents took their children out of Natchez High Friday afternoon in response to rampant rumors of gang-related fights and violence at the Seargent S. Prentiss Drive campus.

&uot;The rumors of bombs and shootings are just rumors,&uot;&160;said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis, who said no violence occurred at the campus Friday. &uot;It has prevented us from having a legitimate day of school.&uot;

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That gossip was fueled in part by arrests earlier in the week and in part by an ambulance dispatched to the campus early Friday, administrators said.

The ambulance came to the school to assist a student who collapsed in class, said Davis, who described the afternoon events as disruptive.

&uot;Today the rumors won,&uot; Davis said. &uot;Nothing happened. These kids can start a rumor any day.&uot;

The rumors circulating indicted that that there was going to be trouble at Natchez High School around 7 a.m. Friday, &160;said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff.

So police increased patrols at Natchez High School, Natchez Middle School and the Central Alternative School.

Officials believe the rumors may have been spread by the friends of eight students arrested Tuesday for fighting.

And it is possible Tuesday’s fight was gang-related, Davis said.

The students involved reportedly flashed gang signs at each other while at a dance Saturday night, Davis said.

The dance was not a school function, but that didn’t keep the students from bringing the dispute to school grounds.

&uot;They probably figured if they&160;(brought) it to school they would probably have an audience and probably wouldn’t get arrested,&uot;&160;Davis said.

But the district has taken a no-tolerance stand on fights and disturbance and is required to report all violent acts to the police. That policy has resulted in 18 arrests this week.

&uot;I hate to see these kids go to jail,&uot; Davis said. &uot;They’re good kids.&uot;

But what really matters to the district is keeping the schools safe.

&uot;We are continuing to have school at Natchez High School and people who violate (the school’s) safety will be dealt with,&uot; Davis said.

Huff said he was not surprised to hear that the fight could be gang related.

&uot;We’ve had this for years,&uot; he said. &uot;We realize there are neighborhood gangs.&uot;

And it is not unusual for there to be arrests at the beginning of a school year. &uot;Last year we have about 20 to 25 (arrests) in the first three or four weeks of school. It’s nothing unusual,&uot;&160;Huff said. &uot;I expect in to calm down in a few weeks.&uot;

At 9:30 a.m., two high school girls, ages 16 and 17, were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace by fighting. The girls had been suspended earlier for fighting each other and Friday was their first day back at school. When they saw each again they started cursing, Davis said.

Police also arrested a 14-year-old boy at Natchez Middle School Friday for carrying a screwdriver to school in his backpack. He is charged with possession of a weapon by a student.

The eight students involved in Tuesday’s fight have been suspended for nine days and could face additional punishment by the school.

The students could face expulsion, probation or other punishments, Davis said.