GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Last week, Gwinnett County parents demanded action from the schools' superintendent, saying there’s been a rise in violent incidents in the district this year.
Parents told 11Alive that they believe this change came after the district modified its policy on how to discipline students.
We are verifying the claims to get your answers to find out if there has been a rise in fights.
Has there been a rise in violent incidents (fights and weapons found) in Gwinnett County Public Schools this year?
Yes, there have been more fights and weapons found on-campus from August through October 31st this year compared to that same time span in 2021.
WHAT WE FOUND
Hundreds of parents demanded action last Wednesday night from the Gwinnett County Schools superintendent to keep their children’s schools safe, and free of violent crime.
Stacey Gyorgyi has a son in high school in Gwinnett, and she said administrators are letting disruptive and violent students continue their behaviors.
“These kids all know there are no consequences,” Gyorgyi 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.”
RELATED: Angry, worried Gwinnett County parents demand tougher discipline of students who are disruptive, violent
That "restorative practice" Gyorgyi is referring to are the new discipline procedures the school district outlined back in August. Several parents in attendance that night told 11Alive that there have been a rise of what they call "violent incidents" since that month.
"We have a child that has died in Gwinnett County, we had a stabbing that took place, Shiloh High School last week there was a shooting," Holly Terei told 11Alive. She has four children in Gwinnett schools.
Now, the district explains suspensions or expulsions should only be used as the most severe way to intervene. Instead, they write that, "schools should view disciplinary incidents as teachable moments" and that "each and every student shall experience schools that create a culture of belonging."
“We have students that are repeat offenders that keep returning to the classroom after committing these violent acts,” Terei added.
11Alive looked at the number of fights on-campus and the number of weapons found from August through October 31 last year and compared that to the same time period this year.
The district said in 2021, the number of fights went from 750, to 991 this year. That's a 32% increase. Meanwhile, 144 weapons were found last year, compared to 182 this year. That's a 26% increase.
The district’s handbook does say students could face a one year expulsion for having a weapon on-campus, but administrators, members of the school board, the superintendent, and others, have the discretion to pick a different way to discipline them.
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.
“We care about the safety of each and every child, so if a student needs to be removed from certain school environments, our policies certainly support that," Dr. Watts told 11Alive.
So, we can verify that it's true: the number of weapons found, and the number of fights on Gwinnett County school grounds both increased this year, compared to last, from the August through October 31 time periods.