March 10, 2017 10:56:12 AM
An altercation at Noxubee County High School led to an arrest, prompting school officials to re-examine their policies for how students are checked out of school.
The incident happened Wednesday when, according to school officials, 20-year-old Edreion Rice of Macon arrived to check out a sibling from the high school. As he was leaving, Rice encountered a student in the hallway and the two began fighting. The incident was caught on video by another student and has since gone viral.
"It's just an unfortunate situation and something we are taking seriously," said NCHS Principal James Covington. "What I can tell you is that (Rice) was authorized to pick up the student. Each year, we send forms to parents and they have to provide the names of those who are authorized to pick up their children. In this case, the person who picked up the student was on that list."
Covington said neither Rice nor the student involved in the altercation was injured.
Noxubee County Sheriff Terry Grassaree said his department had limited knowledge of the incident.
"It was a school incident and we didn't get a call," Grassaree said. "The school resource officer brought (Rice) to the jail and we booked him in. He bonded out within a couple of hours."
Grassaree said Rice was charged with disturbing the peace by fighting, a misdemeanor. His bond was $500.
Covington said the school district is still investigating the incident.
"We'd like to wrap up that part of it today since we start spring break next week," Covington said. "We are also taking a look at our policies to see where we can make improvements or changes."
Officials at other districts weigh in
Officials with both Lowndes and Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated school districts said they feel their policies would have likely prevented such an incident in their schools.
"For starters, the only persons who can check out a student (at LCSD) is the student's parent or guardian," said Lynn Wright, superintendent for the Lowndes County School District. "We have a security guard stationed in the hallway who meets the parent or guardian at the door and they have to be buzzed in and are escorted to the school office. We've never had an incident. We feel good about our policy. Our guards do a really good job with keeping our kids where they are supposed to be."
David Baggett, an assistant superintendent for SOCSD said the schools have two major strategies for ensuring safety during the check-out process.
"First, we work with parents to establish who can check out a student," Baggett said. "Those names have to be on our list and the person has to show ID to prove they are on the authorized list. Second, that person comes into a secured area and visitors do not have open access to our students. During a student check-out, the student is called to the office and turned out to the person who is doing the pick-up in a secured area away from the students. We feel that we have a good plan in place."
Covington said the idea of isolating visitors from the school population could be an option for Noxubee schools moving forward.
"The way our school is set up, it's not impossible," he said. "I'm sure that's something our superintendent and school board will take a look at, along with anything else we can do to ensure the safety of our students."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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