Local clergy meet with school officials

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 23, 1999

In the battle against school violence, Dr. Carl Davis has called in the heavy artillery: the clergy.

Seventy-seven people, composed primarily of area ministers, crowded into the first floor conference room at the Natchez-Adams School District administrative offices Thursday morning.

The group gathered to discuss using area ministers as volunteers in the school district to provide positive role models and encouragement to students.

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Davis, superintendent of the Natchez-Adams School District, said ministers are a critical part of the school’s effort to raise the respect of children for themselves and those around them.

Montrelle Greene, assistant principal of McLaurin Elementary School, and Rose Jackson, special education teacher at McLaurin, have spearheaded the organization of the volunteer group of ministers.

&uot;While it’s true that we must react to situations as they arise, we must also be proactive to do all we can to help the children,&uot; Greene said.

Jackson appealed to the assembled clergy.

&uot;Come to the schools and set an example,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s time to take back our youth. We know with God’s help, it can be done.&uot;

Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff addressed the group of ministers on the police department’s role in intervening in violent situations at the school.

&uot;Do you deal with the 25 or 30 who are causing trouble so that the 2,500 can have a safe educational environment? Yes, you do,&uot; Huff said.

In reviewing police reports of adult fights and school reports of children’s fights, Huff said the language used in both are strikingly similar.

&uot;You’re the conscience of the community,&uot; Huff said, encouraging clergy to play a more active role in encouraging the youth of their congregation toward non-violence.

Davis said he hasn’t made any new rules in his enforcement of school policies on violence.

&uot;We’ve not changed any policies. It’s been in the rule books,&uot; Davis said. &uot;Somehow, we haven’t been consistent in our enforcement over the years. In the 1999-2000 school year, the Natchez-Adams School District will fully enforce the district’s Code of Student Conduct policy.&uot;

The Natchez-Adams School District has had 25 students arrested since the new school year began in August.

Davis said some parents have been critical of the district calling in Natchez police when students have acted out violently.

&uot;When we can get a situation under control, we don’t have to call the police. But if we need that support, we will call police to ensure the safety of the children involved,&uot; Davis said.

Calling in police also starts other wheels in motion, Davis said. &uot;It gets a lot of agencies involved,&uot; he said, and can ultimately get the parent more involved in the raising of the child.

Principals each emphasized that the majority of Natchez-Adams students should not be judged by the very few who behave badly.