Breaking News
More () »

Angry, worried Gwinnett County parents demand tougher discipline of students who are disruptive, violent

Gwinnett County Schools Superintendent Calvin Watts told parents he is working to find the most effective mix of prevention, punishment and rehabilitation.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Hundreds of parents, angry and worried, demanded action Wednesday night from the Gwinnett County Schools superintendent to keep their children’s schools safe, and free of violent crime.

The superintendent Dr. Calvin Watts said the schools are in crisis because of violent students, even though he said a small percentage of the students is responsible.

Dr. Watts told parents he is working to find the most effective mix of prevention, punishment and rehabilitation.

At a 90-minute meeting at New Mercies Christian Church in Lilburn, parents accused Dr. Watts of coddling violent students and keeping them in school, posing a threat to other students, all because of a new discipline policy that began in August.

“We have students that are repeat offenders that keep returning to the classroom after committing these violent acts,” Holly Terei told 11Alive; she has four children in Gwinnett schools.

Stacey Gyorgiy has a son in high school in Gwinnett, and she says administrators are letting disruptive and violent students continue their behaviors.

“These kids all know there are no consequences,” Gyorgiy said. “They come back to school the next day, stuff is still escalated. And then you’ve got another fight on top of another fight. This restorative practice is not working.”

Parents and students at the meeting said they are on edge.

Kayla Fields is a ninth grader at Grayson High School, where one student just attacked another with a box cutter.

“I was kind of just shocked at why somebody would stab somebody in the back,” she said. 

Clayton Bolds, with two children in Gwinnett schools, is frightened for them every single day.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking, you know, you send your kids to school and you got to think about they may not come home,” Bolds said.

October was a violent month for Gwinnett County schools, with incidents that included a Norcross High School student being shot to death just off-campus.

Superintendent Watts told parents that student violators are, in fact, being held accountable under the new policy, up to and including long suspensions and expulsions.

However, he’s also trying to rehabilitate disruptive students where he can.

“I want people to know that we care about each and every (student), we care about the safety of each and every child,” Watts said. “And that means if students need to be removed from certain school environments, our policies certainly support that.”

Watts told parents he is considering installing metal detectors and scanners at all entrances at Gwinnett County Schools. Many in the audience applauded when he discussed that possibility. He said he does not know, yet, when he’ll be ready to make a decision on that part of the overall safety plan.

Watts said there will be more meetings with parents in other parts of Gwinnett County that will be announced soon.

Before You Leave, Check This Out