With police called to school every other day, reforms planned at Washington Middle School

GREEN BAY, Wis. -

So far, Marsha Arendt isn’t sure that it’s enough.

She’s not sure that enough will have changed at Washington Middle School in Green Bay to make the school a safe environment for her son, Kevin, who will be in seventh grade.

Kevin was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as a result of the bullying environment and general chaos at the school last year, Arendt said.

"[Students] pulled down his pants twice in the hallways," she said as she described some of Kevin’s experience.
“Everything that my son endured is going to happen next school year unless something changes.”

Green Bay Police were called to the school at least every other day, on average, during the last school year, according to police records.

Reform at the school became a public topic after Kerstin Westcott, a sixth grade teacher, resigned from Washington because she doubted whether she would “survive” another school year.

"A student I had never met approached me in the hallway during passing time and said, 'I have a gun and I'm going to shoot.  Bang bang!  Bang bang!’” Westcott told the School Board this month, as she described how the student play-acted that he had a gun.

Below, read Westcott’s originally anonymous plea for help from May. 

Warning:  The letter contains graphic language that could be offensive to some readers.

 

The following incidents from the 2016-2017 school year are taken from Green Bay Police reports obtained from a public records request.  The names of juveniles were redacted from the records.

  • In November, a set of brass knuckles fell out a student’s binder.  The student said that “her father had given them to her in case she was ‘jumped.’”  The student was cited for having a weapon on school property.
  • “It needs to be mentioned that it is a daily occurrence that the administrators, monitors and [school resource officers] have to chase (redacted) around the building because he refuses to go to class and refused to do what he is told to do.”  A juvenile charge of intimidation of a victim was referred for the November case.
  • A female student in December was referred for charges of fourth-degree sexual assault for “asking students for a ‘high five’ and then [she would] slap them extremely hard on their butts… all of the students stated that they felt extremely uncomfortable and violated.”  The female suspect “did not care about what her consequences are.”
  • A staff assistant in May fell and slammed her head on the floor as students chased another student.  “There were kids all over the hallway and this created a very unsafe environment, resulting in [the staff member] being taken to the hospital by a rescue squad.”
  • A school social worker in May was “begging [a student] to just go for a walk with her to calm down.  [The student] instead began punching the walls with his fist.”
  • A student in April of this year admitted to pulling down another student’s pants and underwear in the hallway because the victim student “is very annoying in class.”
  • A student had a flip knife at school in November that was 8 ½ inches “from tip of the blade to the end of the handle.”  In the same report, a student was mentioned who is “very rarely in class where she belongs [and is] most often hiding around the school, or roaming the halls and running away from staff in the building.”

District administration told the Board at a Monday night meeting that they have a plan to reset the culture at the school.

"We're going to keep doing and keep doing to make sure that we're successful,” Washington Principal Dennis Christensen told the Board this month.

“Failure is not an option," he said.

Staff will be added at the school including an additional assistant principal, an extra school counselor, and three more teachers to plug staffing gaps, administration said.

Students will be told of expectations relating to tardiness, cell phone use, hall and cafeteria behavior, and profanity, administration said.  No concrete consequences for offenders were mentioned.

Westcott will teach at a middle school in Manitowoc, she said, declining to name the school.

She preferred not to immediately react to the district’s plan following Monday’s meeting.

Kevin, the student with PTSD, and the rest of Washington Middle School will return to class in early September.

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