Senior skip day turns violent, officials say

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2001

Officials with the Natchez-Adams School District knew about Thursday’s &uot;senior skip day&uot; – but did not know a gathering at Broadmoor ballpark would turn violent.

In fact, school officials visited the park throughout the day to check on students, said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis.

&uot;I want the kids to know that even though we don’t endorse it we want to make sure they’re safe,&uot; Davis said.

Things may have been far from safe Thursday when Adams County sheriff’s deputies were called to Broadmoor ballpark in response to reports of gunfire and fighting.

Davis estimated several hundred people – many of whom did not show up until the afternoon – were at the park, ranging in age from middle school students to people in their early 20s.

&uot;We had to show our face because those kids are all Natchez public school kids or they’ve gone through the school district,&uot; Davis said,

About every hour Thursday, someone with the district, including Davis, drove to the park. Davis said he hoped just their presence would have a factor on student behavior.

The school district does not endorse &uot;senior skip day,&uot; &uot;but whether you’re for it or against it, it’s going to take place. I go just to show my face. I realize those kids are Natchez High kids,&uot; Davis said.

He returned to the park after hearing the reports of gunshots.

While deputies dispersed the crowd, they found bullet casings at the scene but could not determine if shots were fired during the event.

The yearly event also worries Broadmoor residents who say it blocks traffic and raises safety concerns.

&uot;If a bullet had come through the window we could have been killed,&uot; said Alfredia Jones, who lives at 265 Country Club Drive.

Jones said she complained about the event last year without success.

&uot;We are fed up with it really,&uot; Jones said.

Deputies also reported seeing alcohol, but Davis said he did not see any.

Natchez High School Principal Brenda Williams was out of town Thursday, but she said &uot;senior skip days&uot; have taken place for years.

She did not know how many students were absent Thursday, but she had heard it was a &uot;significant number.&uot;

&uot;In no way do we sanction this,&uot; Williams said. &uot;It’s one of those things that we don’t support but at the same time we’re not stupid enough to think that we can stop it.&uot;

In many cases, the parents give the students permission to skip school that day, Williams said.

&uot;The parents are the ultimate controlling factor on the student,&uot; she said. &uot;When a child is not at school our powers are somewhat limited.&uot;

The City of Natchez has a daytime curfew in place, but Broadmoor is outside the city limits.

Last year, Williams said, at least two students were brought back to school by police officers.

Adams County Supervisor Thomas &uot;Boo&uot; Campbell, who is a member of the county’s recreation committee, said since the park is a public place it is open to the public during the day.

&uot;It’s just like Duncan Park,&uot; Campbell said. &uot;You can go out there anytime.&uot;

A committee of Broadmoor residents is responsible for opening the park each day, he said.

Davis said he saw fewer parents at this year’s senior skip day than last year. Davis said he thought that only made the situation worse.

Since the school district did not have jurisdiction over the gathering, students will not be punished, Davis said.

He may talk to the Natchez-Adams School Board to allow future seniors to have a &uot;senior day&uot; or &uot;half day&uot; on school grounds so the school district can control it.

Ben Hillyer contributed to this report.