Security is being increased at Wyandotte and Harmon high schools in Kansas City, Kansas, after fights that took place earlier in the school year.
“We have had some challenges at our high schools, particularly at Harmon and Wyandotte,” said Dr. Anna Stubblefield, superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, at the Sept. 14 school board meeting.
She said she met last week with staff, principals and assistant principals, and they were working at being proactive with interventions outside of staffing. A portion of the Harmon staff has received restorative practices training, she said.
They are planning to train all Harmon staff in October, working to provide physical safety, as well as working with students and staff, she said. The training will help them to intervene and be more proactive to avoid some situations students are engaging in, and give them alternatives on how to resolve conflicts. All of the staff there has received trauma-informed training, Dr. Stubblefield said.
The law enforcement staffing at the high schools is one of the items on the agenda for a special Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools board meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20. The meeting will be on Zoom.
The school district recently announced Dr. Stubblefield will go on a listening and learning tour through the school district, to listen to parents, students and the public. The first session is at 6 p.m. tonight at Carl Bruce Middle School, 2100 N. 18th St. The next session will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at Harmon High School, 2400 Steele Road; followed by a session at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, at Washington High School, 7340 Leavenworth Road.
Police staffing levels at KCK schools
The school district has its own police department.
Chief Henry Horn of the school district’s police department said on Sept. 14 that six police officers are assigned to the high schools, seven assigned to middle schools, and four are responders to the 32 schools and buildings. There are 21 police officers in all. There is one campus officer at Harmon and one at Sumner Academy.
Five supervisors rotate and provide additional support, he said.
In addition, eight school safety associates include two assigned to each high school. Recently the department received approval to hire five more SSA positions, he said.
Two new school safety associates will be assigned to Wyandotte and two to Harmon, as well as one assigned to Bruce Middle School, he said.
Their roles include supporting schools on safety measures, screening visitors and building safety checks. The school safety associates can intervene in altercations, if they have proper training, according to Chief Horn. Training is taking place currently.
Craig Krueger, who has two foster sons at Harmon, spoke at the community comment section of the Sept. 14 school board meeting and offered a policy recommendation. Children sometimes substitute behavior for words to get their needs met, he said. He said the district should use a trauma-informed program for managing student behavior. He also recommended more literacy training for school district leaders.
Some board members call for additional security
At recent school board meetings, board member Wanda Paige has called for additional security at Wyandotte and Harmon, after she received calls from parents.
“I’ve heard from quite a few parents from Harmon and Wyandotte, as well as former graduates, and everyone is a little disheartened about all the fights and things. They just feel the security we have now is not enough,” Paige said at the Sept. 14 meeting.
“I’m not saying bring in the National Guard,” she added. However, from talking to some teachers at Wyandotte, she said their concern was that it was not a problem in the classroom, it was the passing period, when students are in the hallways. There are not enough staff to control this situation, she said.
All students deserve to be safe, she said. It’s good to have a listening tool and to talk, she said.
“But we need some order,” Paige said. She watched an incident last year in which the officers were hit and kicked and insulted. “They deserve medals for what they have to go through,” she said.
It’s getting old to keep hearing about the fights at schools, and they have to do something, Paige said.
Chief Horn said they always have the ability to be flexible and change staffing where needed.
Harmon currently is staffed with one school resource officer, one campus officer and two SSAs, Horn said. They will add two SSAs, and it will bring the total security number at Harmon to six, according to Horn.
Dr. Valdenia Winn, a board member, asked about lighting around the schools, and Chief Horn said if they need an assessment, they could have one done about lighting.
Dr. Winn also asked about using drones for surveillance. The school district has drones, according to Horn, but is not currently using them for surveillance.
Crowded conditions need to be changed, one board member says
Dr. Stacy Yeager pointed out that the student enrollment counts are much higher at Wyandotte High School. Schlagle had about 820 students; Harmon, 1,190; Sumner Academy, 1,000; Washington, 1,127; and Wyandotte, 1,840.
Harmon has about 700 less students than Wyandotte, but is getting about the same amount of security staffing, she said.
Dr. Yeager requested an investigation on how to help with enrollment numbers being spread out more evenly among the high schools across the district.
Yolanda Clark, board vice president, said she knows they’re targeting the fighting, but is it something deeper? There are other things to be addressed in the schools along with the fighting, she said.
“I think we’re Band-Aiding the problem, especially at Wyandotte, with this overcrowding,” Dr. Yeager said. How can the number be decreased at Wyandotte, so there can be more control and focus, and appropriate class sizes at Wyandotte, she asked.
Dr. Stubblefield said there will be an upcoming report at a board meeting about enrollment and boundaries, probably in October and November.
Dr. Yeager asked to move the report up, saying the situation was a “ticking time bomb.”
However, Dr. Stubblefield said looking at the boundaries is a long-term situation. The district could look at the number of Wyandotte students on permits, who have transferred in and don’t live in the school boundaries, and could provide that information at the Sept. 28 board meeting, she said.
‘You can’t learn in chaos’
“We’re responsible and we’ve got to act,” Dr. Winn said. It may appear that the board is not doing anything. The conversation is a must, but also, there is a level of responsibility for parents, she said. There are also mentors at the schools who could be involved.
“I know we’re doing what we can. I still think we need to add three more people until we figure out what to do with this crowd at Wyandotte,” Paige said. “You added two, but it would help if you would add three more.”
Randy Lopez, board president, said he didn’t disagree, but they needed to look at and evaluate the staffing situation in an appropriate and thoughtful approach.
“Each day, it’s more and more drama,” Paige said. “I don’t want to put a Band-Aid on it, we want to resolve it, but you do have to get things under control. You can’t learn in chaos,” Paige said.
To see more details from the Sept. 14 meeting, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W4WGIuyP1M.