DECATUR, GA --State department of Education data suggests that Columbia Middle School and McNair Middle School, both of DeKalb County, are the two most troubled schools in Georgia when measured in reports of fighting and battery. In both schools, students tell us fighting is commonplace.
"They get into fights and stuff," said Kwadell Hendricks, a 6th grader at McNair. "Maybe like every week or so" he says he eyewitnesses fights. He spoke to us with the permission of his mother, Kita Cannon.
"There was just a fight two days ago. It was two people in my home classroom," said Ladashia Harris, a McNair 7th grader. Her mother, Dawanna Harris gave her permission for the interview.
State data shows that in 2013, Columbia reported 572 incidents of fighting and battery. McNair had 515 – putting both schools on pace to have roughly three such incidents per school day.
"I hear about incidents of violence from my children," said D'Angelo Vaughn, a father of two Columbia Middle Schools students. "It's scary but I mean things like this aren't out of the ordinary for kids in this age group."
Dekalb school officials say they took notice of the violence at McNair and Columbia middle schools more than a year ago.
"A lot of the time, the children may fight at home, or something is going on in the neighborhood," said Rachel Zeigler, a newly promoted regional superintendent whose turf covers McNair and Columbia Middle Schools. "So sometimes those things are brought back into school. So again we teach them mediation skills, and how to get along and what is appropriate. Just to let things go."
Last year, DeKalb hired new principals at both McNair and Columbia. And parents at McNair say they've noticed a difference – and an improvement in test scores.