JAY COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – A rise in fights during the first quarter of the year at Jay County Jr.-Sr. High School caused enough alarm that officials have changed the protocol when addressing physical conflicts between students.
A concerned citizen reached out to WANE TV claiming there had been no less than 38 fights at the school of roughly 1,300 students during the first 40 days of the current year.
Those numbers are not accurate, according to Principal Chad Dodd, but he did say there had been a rise in fighting amongst students.
“During the first quarter, it was up about 50 percent from previous years,” said Dodd, who declined to give exact numbers.
School officials met with officials from the Jay County Prosecutor’s office as well as officials with Jay County Probation to address the uptick in fights, according to Dodd. A collaboration between all three entities, along with help from the school’s resource officer from the Jay County Sheriff’s Department, resulted in a change on how fights are handled.
Previously, the administration would evaluate a fight and decide on punishment. If the fight was severe enough, a police report would be filed and information forwarded to the prosecutor and probation department.
Now, a police report is automatically filed after a fight – no matter how severe – and information is given to the prosecutor’s office and probation officials, who will decide what happens next, according to Dodd.
That could include a suspension – the school handbook calls for a one- to five- day suspension for fighting – or a child being put in a youth center or given informal probation meeting.
“They have some tools that put a bit more teeth in what happens,” Dodd said.
None of the fights have resulted in serious injury, though some of the students have suffered harm during the scuffles.
“We’ve had injuries, bodily injuries, but they have not been broken legs or broken bones or broken noses,” Dodd said. “They push each other a bit, and when you get a student with a goose egg on their head, we tend to take that a little more seriously.”
Dodd also said the school takes bullying seriously and addresses each accusation of bullying.
Currently, the school uses an anonymous reporting tool from the non-profit Sandy Hook Promise organization that allows students to report any bullying that might be happening to them or fellow classmates.
When a report comes to officials, they speak to the student who made the report, the student named in the report as well as teachers who may have the students together in class. Sometimes, the reports come in without names, but officials still try to investigate those instances, Dodd said.
And officials will often times take action behind the scenes parents and others may not always see, according to Dodd.
If a student reports that he or she is being bullied at lunch, officials may place adults near his or her lunch table to see what might be happening, Dodd said. Sometimes, two students in conflict will claim to be bullied by the other, in which Dodd and others have to untangle what might actually be happening.
“We do things from a conflict resolution stance,” Dodd said.
The last thing Dodd wants to do, he said, is take away a student’s education. But students have been expelled this year, though the new protocol seems to have curbed some of the fighting between the kids.
“We did have a student arrested at lunch several weeks ago,” Dodd said. “It was a young man who didn’t back down like we thought he should. I think that helped make a statement that we’re not going to allow this.”
As of right now, Dodd said, it has been roughly 20 days since the school had a fight.