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St. Bernard school board discusses safety concerns in wake of Chalmette High brawl | #schoolsaftey

CHALMETTE, La. (WVUE) – The St. Bernard Parish school board met Tuesday (Aug. 22), addressing parents’ campus safety concerns after a brawl at Chalmette High School last week resulted in eight arrests and two students being tased by a school resource officer.

Parents told board members that video of the Aug. 18 incident was disturbing, and that some bad behavior on campus has escalated out of control. They also said Chalmette High is overcrowded and that a second high school should be built in the district. And they called for the school to provide more mental health services, additional resource officers, and impose harsher punishment for violent acts.

But not all parents agreed. Some criticized the use of force last week, which Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann said is being investigated as part of the department’s standard practices. Pohlmann said he was glad his deputy was there to prevent an even worse outcome.

“That deputy was very well-trained in the use of force policy,” Pohlmann said. “Very well-trained on all equipment he carried. And he’s trained as a school resource officer. He’s there for our kids.”

The sheriff said parents and students need to be held accountable.

Superintendent Doris Voitier said St. Bernard schools are not sending buses to pick up kids outside the parish and that there is an investigator in charge of ensuring students enrolled in the district actually live within the parish.

Voitier discussed the School Emergency Crisis Plan, which includes grants funding single-point entry into schools, life-skills programs, community partnerships, and the Crime Stoppers program where kids and parents can send in anonymous tips.

She said the high school has 11 counselors, social workers and therapists on campus, and that students would be subjected to random searches, including the use of a drug-sniffing K-9 from the sheriff’s office.

Along with that, the district has a partnership with the sheriff’s office and local businesses so they can view external cameras and see what’s happening around the school in real time, as well as inside the schools.

Trudy Albarado, whose grandchildren are freshmen at Chalmette High, said she was “horrified” by last Friday’s campus violence.

“I was passing by the school and it’s like, what, ‘Is it take your kid out of school today?’ And then I found out there was a fight and parents were taking their kids out of schools because the kids were afraid.

“To me, if they can’t resolve it with fists, they’re going to resort to guns. They obviously don’t respect each other. They don’t respect the teacher. So you know there’s a problem here. I understand we need to have a process for behavioral problems. But we don’t want to lose a kid until that process has its fruition.”

A man attending the meeting told the school board, “As a parent, I worry about my children for a wide variety of reasons, and I completely relate to any parent who does the same. I do not, however, understand this message that our school leaders and teachers are not doing everything in their power to keep our children safe.”

Sheriff Pohlmann said the high school has two resource offices, a full-time residency investigator and two part-time investigators. He said deputy recruitment, not money, is the biggest impediment to beefing up that staff. But he added that widely seen videos of such fights don’t help with that effort.

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