NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Nashville mom says she was worried for her child’s safety at a local middle school.
Alison Egerton’s 10-year-old son started fifth grade at John Early Museum Magnet Middle School with high hopes.
“When I toured the school it was fantastic,” she told News 2. “It was quiet when we were there; we liked the staff that we met with. We felt great about it.”
John Early Middle is a magnet school, which means students who aren’t zoned for it must apply through a lottery system.
Egerton said she applied because it’s a pathway to the prestigious Hume-Fogg High School, where her older daughter went to school.
“I was elated that Kingston would have that same Hume-Fogg experience. I would have no idea at what cost that would come,” she said.
Egerton told News 2 that in the first week her son and his friends started talking about fights they had seen.
According to school officials, there have been 62 fights at John Early so far this year.
Metro police said they’ve responded to 40 calls for service at the school and seven of those have been for assault.
By the third week of school, Egerton said her son had been punched in the stomach, choked in the bathroom and finally, beaten up to where his tooth was broken.
“I would have preferred to have him in a daycare environment than to send him there,” she said. “He wasn’t learning and he was getting physically threatened and injured.”
Egerton said her son switched schools but she worries about the students still enrolled there.
News 2 sat down with Metro Public Schools Community Superintendent Dr. Pippa Meriwether.
She oversees all schools in the MNPS Northwest Quadrant, which includes John Early.
“This was a very unfortunate incident as is all violence against students,” she told News 2. “Students are not in danger at John Early. We have a wide array of support staff, teaching staff, principal and assistant principals who are very dedicated to the safety of the students.”
Dr. Meriwether said since school started, two new staff members have been hired to help with social and emotional learning.
“We’re working on routines and procedures throughout the whole school and working with faculty to model good social and emotional behavior,” she said. “We are working with the community, we are working with the parents, and we are working with the students and the faculty to provide the very best education to students and to keep students safe.”
She said the changes weren’t made because of violence that has been reported this year.
Meriwether said the changes, which include a school-wide climate and culture intervention plan, were brought on by looking at the disciplinary data from last year.
“We wanted to be proactive,” she said.
She added John Early also did a “re-boot” after fall break this year.
“We saw opportunities to improve and so we thought if we kicked everything off with kids coming back, everybody’s fresh and new, they can wrap their heads around the expectations and be committed to that for the rest of the school year,” she explained.
When asked about the reports of violence at the magnet school, Dr. Meriwether said, “There has not been a lot of violence at John Early.”
“But 62 fights is a lot?” News 2 reporter Jessica Jaglois asked.
“Sixty-two fights is a lot, I will agree,” said Meriwether.
Meriwether said she wants parents to report anything they feel isn’t right as soon as possible so administrators can deal with it accordingly.
However, Egerton was not convinced by Meriwether’s response and urge parents to be vigilant.