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Superintendent Robbie Hooker Addresses School Violence | #schoolsaftey


At community conversation sessions last week on school safety, Clarke County School Superintendent Robbie Hooker delivered a message for Athens: When people chat about public education and problems, and the heads nod and the talk shifts to “those kids,” he said, “those kids are our kids,” because public schools are an extension of the community. If we want to have a better city, we need to have better schools, and that can happen only through community involvement. Hooker stressed the importance and impact of mentoring students and “listening to their concerns.” People should be asking, “What’s my role in making our system better?”

Take the employees at Creature Comforts. Employees from the local brewery visit Stroud Elementary at least once a month to read, individually for an hour, with second and third graders, hoping to increase their reading abilities. They’ve committed to this pilot program until 2026, and Hooker said the program is helping students improve.

The conversations happened at Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools, and more will be scheduled for the next few weeks. Hooker said he hopes to hold work sessions with interested participants from the community to devise ways to make schools better.

Two changes in school policy are on the horizon: requiring middle and high school students to carry only clear backpacks and to wear school ID badges so that officials can easily identify non-students. The clear bag policy has been enforced at middle- and high-school sporting events and it’s working well, said district police chief Terry Reid. 

When asked about misbehaving students, Hooker said most of the disruption in high school classes is caused by 30 or so students at Central and 43 students at Cedar who’ve earned only one or two credits after having been enrolled as high school freshman for three years. Hooker said principals will meet with those students’ parents to find “the best place for those students,” whether that means earning a GED, enrolling in Athens Tech, attending alternative school or participating in a nine-week life skills program to help them make better choices and finish high school.

“They’re coming to school, eating lunch and wandering the hallways,” Hooker said. “We can’t allow them to impede the learning of others.” 

When asked about gang activity, Reid said his officers deal with it daily “so we don’t have a big blowup.” The school administration also gets involved, and the school district can reach out to county and even state officials if need be. He said his officers are spending time talking with ninth graders about the perils of joining gangs.

Hooker said one way to combat gang problems is to improve students’ reading abilities. “Our prisons are built on third-grade reading levels,” he said. The students most interested in joining a gang struggle with reading, so he encouraged those attending Wednesday’s meeting to “come in and read with students.”

Each middle school and high school has an officer on campus, but there aren’t metal detectors at every door because a huge team would be needed to staff every door throughout the school day. Chief Reid said he constantly stresses the message to students of “see something, say something.”



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