Fighting stats worrisome, but it’s important to keep perspective

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper, we wrote about Berta Weathersbee Elementary School, which ranks in the top 10 of all Georgia public schools in fights per 100 students.

Obviously, this is the kind of top 10 list the school would choose to avoid, if at all possible, and parents have a right to be upset. Parents should be concerned about a school that ranks in this highly in such an alarming category, and has 35 fights per 100 students.

However, it’s also to keep this all in perspective.

First, the information used to create this top 10 list, which first printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, is now over a year old. The data is based on the 2015-2016 school year and doesn’t take into account the Troup County School System’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program, which has already made a difference in the school system, according to numbers released by school administrators.

This year Berta Weathersbee had only seven bullying referrals for the 2016-2017 school year, defiance and noncompliance referrals reduced by half from last year and 75 percent of students had one or fewer referrals, according to information released by school administrators for the story. Those are eye opening numbers, especially compared to the 2015-2016 report.

It’ll likely take some time for updated figures to be released by the Georgia Department of Education, but whenever those come out, it’ll be interesting to look at a side by side comparison of each set of data.

However, it’s also not fair to only put Berta Weathersby in the spotlight. The truth is that fighting happens in just about every school in the country, regardless of state, county or demographics. That isn’t meant to serve as an excuse, but rather a dose of reality.

Other schools in Troup County have fighting problems too, as does nearly every school in the state and every school in the country.

With that said, even one fight is too many. Unfortunately, we don’t have a fix-all option to solve that problem. It’s not ok to just threw our arms up and say “well, kids are kids” and move on with that as the expectation, although it’s true. Kids are going to get into disagreements, much in the same way adults do, and a lot of times it’s the latter that set a bad example.

It’s clear the Troup County School System has already made a plan to ensure all of its schools improve on the discipline front. School officials have pointed to the PBIS program as a way to lower those numbers, and based on the information released, it already has.

Of course, school officials warned during a board meeting last month that PBIS was a long-term solution — not a quick fix. This isn’t something meant to work as a band aid, but rather a long-term fix that will make a difference over time.

It’s understandable for parents to want fast results to change the fighting statistics at Berta Weathersbee, and we don’t disagree. But it’s also worth remembering that the school system appears to already be working on reducing this problem.