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Benton Harbor school board looks to address violence, opens investigation

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — a knock-down-drag-out in the hallways of Benton Harbor High School has folks fed up.

Parents say this type of behavior can’t be tolerated.

“I will not have my five year old going to school afraid,” said one parent during Thursday’s school board meeting.

A huge brawl inside Benton Harbor High caught on camera is just one of several situations that’s pushing the board to take action and address violence and bad behavior.

Removing violent students

Some educators say they’re constantly worried about their safety.

Eleven teachers at STEAM Academy at MLK submitted a letter to the board of education during the November 30th work session, claiming they have even been physically assaulted by third, fourth and fifth graders.

In that letter, a representative for the teachers wrote in part:

"We feel as though we are unable to fulfill our duty as an educator due to major behavior and safety concerns,” it read. “We strongly believe that students are not being held accountable for their major behavior infractions."

Click here to read the full letter.

The board voted last week to move violent students from MLK to McCord elementary school.

While some people present at Thursday’s meeting agreed with that plan, at least one teacher at McCord and two parents with students in the school protested.

They argued moving those kids would disturb the younger kids at the elementary school.

Keeping them accountable

About 10 parents, teachers and community leaders demanded the board be held accountable.

“To just sit here and look ahead and act like you don’t know what went down, you’re wrong,” former Benton Harbor High School principal Rodger Tripplett told the board.

Those calls come just five days before the video of the high school brawl circulated online.

In the video, you can see everything from fists to wigs were flying during the massive scuffle.

Several students were involved in that fight.

Student-on-student violence isn’t the only issue the district is dealing with but the board looked to resolve some of them during Thursday’s meeting.

Moments before the meeting adjourned, the trustees adopted two resolutions.

The first one ensured the superintendent do all she can to keep students safe.

And the second one was to open an investigation into the district for potentially mishandling a $2 million federal grant geared toward gang prevention.

The district was awarded the grant in September and after a rash of violence in the hallways the past two months, the board questioned why the administration has not utilized security gear like wands and metal detectors.

Superintendent Shelly Walker was not available for comment.

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