Though some parents had heard of fights and guns on Nacogdoches ISD campuses Friday, officials said rumors of such instances were not true.
Nacogdoches ISD Policy Specialist Mason Moses said attendance was down Friday after students and parents heard rumors of a possible fight which might be gang related.
“Attendance today was 66 percent, and we typically run about 95 percent,” Moses said Friday afternoon. “We have 1,697 students enrolled at the high school and 544 were absent.”
At least 12 NHS students were sent to the district’s alternative education program this past week for fighting, Superintendent Fred Hayes said Thursday.
“We did have several students last week involved in a physical altercation Thursday and Friday, and we increased our police support over there last Friday afternoon because we heard there was going to be a fight,” Hayes has said.
Rumors like that are heard throughout schools all the time, and certainly not just in NISD, but it’s important to take them seriously, he said.
“Indeed, they did have a fight,” he said Thursday. “Since then, there hasn’t been anything happening at Nacogdoches High School, but yesterday we started hearing rumors that something is going to happen...”
Those rumors sparked parents to keep their children home from school, to remove them from school early and to call the district asking if it was safe for children to attend.
Carrie Wright said on Facebook that she was “impressed with all the NHS staff for taking precautions. They’re amazing as always.”
Moses said there were no guns brought on campus and no arrests made, contrary to many rumors circulating.
Officers from Nacogdoches Police Department and Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Department responded Friday morning and afternoon to ensure student safety, Hayes said.
“The message that I would like to send to our parents and community is that we are working very hard to maintain the excellent environment on the high school campus that you expect,” Hayes said in the release. “Please understand that any student or community member who approaches any Nacogdoches ISD campus with intent to disrupt the educational process will find a swift and severe response.”
Some parents have said there should be metal detectors at all entrances to the schools to ensure the safety of the students.
On The Daily Sentinel Facebook page, Sandy Clark asked if the district is prepared for possible issues at prom next week.
“Violence in schools is very real,” she wrote Friday afternoon. “Just because it was prevented today, does not assure that it’s over.”
Moses said the district was looking in to heightening security at prom.
“The most important thing is protecting our students,” he said.
More issues are not expected next week, he said.
“I think next week we’ll be back to normal and back to educating our kids and finishing out another good school year,” Moses said.
Hayes said the district will submit a waiver to the Texas Education Agency for the low attendance.
“TEA has a process for dealing with low daily attendance rates that are abnormal to the average daily rate of a district,” he said in the release.
Sharon Barnes, who has a daughter in the ninth grade at NHS, said her daughter went to school Friday and asked several times to go home after hearing rumors about guns and knives on campus.
Barnes went up to the school multiple times and was told by several administrators and people in the attendance office that all students who were not at school, or who left early, would receive zeroes in all their classes for an unexcused absence, she said.
After being assured by the administrators that the rumors of violence and weapons were unfounded, Barnes decided her daughter would remain at school rather than suffer the consequences other students would face. A discussion with several other parents led to their children also staying at school.
“Then I called the superintendent’s office this afternoon and was told all the absences would be excused, whether they were not there the whole day or part of the day,” Barnes said.
To learn that she made her child stay at school, believing she was in a safe environment and would otherwise suffer consequences, while other parents gave in to rumors, upset Barnes.
“My kid, who was there all day, who didn’t want to be there, who was scared — I made her stay up there all day long, as did many other parents,” she said. “There were 544 parents who let their kids stay at home all day long.”
Had she known her daughter wouldn’t have any negative consequences from staying home, Barnes said she wouldn’t have put her through being at school, scared, when the majority of her classmates were not there at all.
“It’s wrong,” she said. “They’ve allowed people to say these rules, these policies, these things that are immovable, that are the law of the land, don’t apply to my child today because there are rumors of bad things going around. And they’re going to get away with it.”