Parents and teachers will demand change at Lawrence High School Friday night after a series of brawls broke out among students in recent weeks.
Five students were arrested this week alone for getting into fights and school staff members have been injured trying to break them up. Violent videos of the fights have been circulating on social media.
Police have issued numerous court summons to students for fighting over the past few weeks.
Parents and teachers planned a rally to demand change at 5 p.m. Friday outside of Lawrence High School. Elected officials, meanwhile, have called an emergency meeting for Monday evening
Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez already assigned additional police resources to the high school earlier this week in response to the recent spate of violence. Two more school resource officers were assigned to Lawrence High, for a total of four. Two additional community police officers were also assigned to the school.
School officials said the increased police presence at the school will continue “indefinitely” to help curb the rise in fights. Officials have also begun to stagger dismissal times in an effort to limit large groups in the building.
Parents and community leaders argue that the situation should not have gone this far, though. Some placed the blame on Superintendent of Lawrence Public Schools Cynthia Paris.
“A lot of families feel that she has failed the job and that brings a lot of non-confidence in members of the City Council," City Councilor Jeovanny Rodriguez said, adding that if the superintendent's performance doesn’t improve, the council will take action.
At Monday's emergency meeting with the School Committee, the City Council and the superintendent, Vasquez asked for state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley or a designee to join. He said that, "while the District and DESE have scarcely participated in the City's public forums, School Committee or Council meetings, when asked to appear," he hopes that "in this opportunity they will participate and at the very least acknowledge the concerns of community members."
Another fight broke out at Lawrence High School Wednesday after a series of brawls a day earlier at the same school. The issue was addressed during a school board meeting on Wednesday night.
"It's been scary, hard, and no one is feeling really good right now," Superintendent Paris said. "I'm saddened by that. Our students are in crisis."
Paris revealed during the meeting that three students had been arrested as a result of Wednesday's school fight, adding to a growing number of police interventions.
Some leaders proposed restricting students from using social media while at school, which they say is being used to fuel the fights. The superintendent vowed to consider all proposals to address student behavior.
"What you don't want is a culture developing around where it's OK and cool to fight all the time, and your fight becomes a performance that is then shared on social media," Lawrence School Committee member Jessica Andors said.
Johanna Mata has two daughters in Lawrence schools and is worried they could get hurt. She said one of her daughters has already asked to be moved to another classroom due to some students behavior.
"Parents, we have to take action. We have to do — I don't know what; walks, protest, I don't know what to do. But we need to do something about it. It is a crisis," Mata said.