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Southwood parent claims school failed her daughter following Friday fight

(CPSO)
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 3:34 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - On Tuesday, Sept. 21 the Caddo Parish School Board heard from one Southwood parent who says the district failed to follow it’s own policies, resulting in her daughter being suspended following a fight that broke out Friday.

The Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office says just before 10 a.m. last Friday, deputies responded to a fight, resulting in eight students arrests. Deputies say two groups of teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 17 were involved in the fight.

They have all been suspended, pending expulsion and are charged with disturbing the peace. They were all released into the custody of their parents.

“On Thursday evening, my daughter came home and told me she was terrified,” parent Chandra Baker said. “She didn’t want to go to school on Friday because her life was threatened by a group of students that were engaged in the altercation. Friday morning she woke up and refused to go. I prayed over her and said fear and faith can’t live in the same house so we were going to go to the school and talk to administrators.”

When Baker and her daughter got to Southwood, an officer told her she had to schedule an appointment to meet with administrator or counselor.

She said the officer told her that her daughter would be safe and that she would be escorted to class.

“Within ten minutes, I hear ‘they’re fighting again’,” Baker said. “I go to the door, I’m banging, and there I see my daughter engaged in a physical altercation. She has never been in one before. She has never been disciplined and never got into any trouble at school.”

Baker says she started beating on the door.

“I saw my daughter fighting for her life,” Baker said. “Instead of the officer coming out and telling me to calm down and talk about it, he came out and shoved me all the way back, telling me I was being disruptive. I told him I was there because I was concerned for my daughter’s life. I didn’t respond or react. I asked him why he pushed me. He yelled at me to step back, that I was being disruptive. I began to cry because I didn’t give him a reason to touch me.”

Baker says the officer asked for her daughter’s name.

“He was sorrowful when I told him who she was because he said she was never involved in anything, that was she was never in any trouble,” Baker said. “He said he was surprised she was involved and asked for me to let him investigate. When he came back he was sorrowful and he kept apologizing for touching me. But that’s what I am hear to speak about. The officers in the schools have a duty to react, not investigate first. So he reacted and assaulted me. A parent who was there to do what your policy states: to get involved and I did. I am embarrassed, my daughter was humiliated, and now she has a record because the school did not follow the policy.”

“When did the school board give Caddo Sheriff’s Office full autonomy to just give citations without an investigation?” Baker said. “When did we allow them to be the big brother of disciplinary action? They are not You guys have a section in your policy that I read thoroughly that no one followed and I am insulted for her. I was told by the principal, that I do support because I see that it’s a bigger problem, that she was going to rescind all of that because she told me they did not follow the policy. But my child is suffering because she is at home, suspended, pending a school expulsion because they did not protect her when she told them on Thursday that she feared for her life.”

Baker says this is her third child to go to Southwood and that this has never happened to her family before.

Her daughter was suspended, facing possible expulsion following an investigation, but Baker said she went home, read through the district’s policy and realized the school didn’t follow the policy, resulting in her daughter’s suspension.

She decided to do her own investigation.

“I looked into all the children involved in the incident,” Baker said. “I was able to, within hours, to get text messages, Instagram feeds, posts and everything to prove that these girls were targeted on Friday. My daughter was standing on the wall, waiting for a security officer to take her to class before a young lady yelled out to get my daughter. In fight or flight mode, she responded. Right now, she has a cast on her arm. She feared her life was in danger. She tried to tell the principal. I had official statements from these students. I pulled the posts from the parents that were glorifying the act.”

She sent the documents to Southwood Principal Dr. Pendleton, who called her the following day.

“She phoned me on Saturday evening saying she apologized and they didn’t follow their policy,” Baker said. “The policy states to investigate first, then take action. I want to let you know not one person from that school questioned a child that day. The communication was ‘Send them home. Expel them. Expel them all’.”

Baker called on the board members to be more easily accessible to parents, to look at the district’s policies and to follow them.

In a news conference held last Friday, Caddo Parish Superintendent Dr. T. Lamar Goree said that the school system is seeing some issues with gangs. He mentioned some of the students involved in the fights will be expelled and sent to alternative schools, but stressed that the school district is still responsible for them.

The superintendent also committed to increasing random metal detection tests at Southwood High.

“We will do random searchings, that means metal detectors. We will have to reach out to students to create a safety net. Look at the situation yesterday. There were four attempts to fight and we prevented that for a large part of the day,” Goree said. “I have no doubt in my mind that Southwood will be safe. The students involved are our students. We have to keep them safe.”

Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator spoke as well, saying these “gangsters and thugs” need structure and support from their parents as well as the school. He urged parents to get involved in their children’s lives and what they share on social media.

“Parents have responsibility to send kids to school that have discipline, with a desire to learn something, not just wanting to come in and stir up strife. I want parents to get involved with what they’re doing on social media and after school. If they’re out of the house at 2 a.m., someone needs to get involved with these kids’ lives,” the sheriff said.

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