2005-03-25 / Community

Staff, Parents Demand ‘Impact School’ Status For BCHS

By Howard Schwach

Principal David Morris greets students and parents.Principal David Morris greets students and parents. In the wake of a week that brought more than 20 arrests at the school, staff and local police officials are calling for Beach Channel High School to be designated as an “Impact School” by the city’s Department of Education.

“The students are virtually out of control,” one staff member, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution by the administration, told The Wave in an email. “The administration seems to be more concerned with the reputation of the school than with the safety of the staff and students.”

Local law enforcement sources added their voice to those who want the Impact School designation, which would flood the school with police and school safety officers.

Dr. David Morris, the school’s principal, however, does not think that becoming an Impact School is a good idea. “It is not our desire to have Beach Channel High School become an Impact School,” he told The Wave. “The school has been showing a dramatic improvement this year over last year and we deserve to continue as we are in moving forward.”

“I’m not denying that any of the incidents that we had last week happened,” he added. “We had a bad week, but we are moving forward. Last year at this time, we reported 80 incidents. This year, we have had only 39 incidents.”

“We are going to have fights in the building. In a zoned school, where all the students are from the area, there are lots of family and fights become a family affair. They are inevitable.”

Morris asked a Wave Editor where he was getting the information for his stories about the school. When told that the sources were confidential, but that they included some of his own staff, he said, “You are getting disgruntled employees who are being made to do their job and do not like it.”

Among the incidents that occurred at Beach Channel High School the week of March 14 were the following:

According to police sources, three young men were arrested on Tuesday, March 15, for violently robbing another student. While two of the boys held the victim down in the hallway, a third went through his pockets, finding nothing of value to take.

That same day, three boys were arrested for fighting in the school hallway. Later that afternoon, a teenage girl was arrested for threatening to kill her teacher.

On March 17, there were at least three separate fights in the building that, according to school sources, nearly sparked riots.

The fights, which sources say are “fairly typical and occur on a daily basis,” had school security agents and deans rushing from fight to fight. The School Safety Task Force was called to the building to address the problem.

Seven teens were given “C” summonses, which require them to go to court to answer for their behavior. Six others were issued Juvenile Reports and released to their parents.

The next day, four young men were arrested at the gas station across from the school for assault. The four are reportedly all Beach Channel High School students who were on their way to school.

While Morris says that he addresses all of the problems and “welcomes police into the building,” the email from a school staff member charged that Morris was attempting to cover up the problems in the school by keeping the police out of the building.

Those who contacted the paper point to the success of neighboring Far Rockaway High School in the Impact program.

Far Rockaway was made an Impact School a little more than a year ago. In that year, major crime in the building fell by more than 80 percent and overall crime by more than 70 percent. Earlier this year, the school was taken off the Impact School list.

Shortly after taking over the troubled school last year, however, Morris reportedly told police that he wanted a reduced police presence, particularly for white police officers, who did not respect the school’s black students.

“Morris is against any bad publicity for his school, and especially Impact Status,” a police source told The Wave. “He doesn’t want police in the school and the teachers are afraid to walk the halls.”

Morris says that is not true. “I spend lots of time on these incidents and I asked for more school security personnel,” he said.

Did he also request more police?

“Police are not the issue,” he said. “I welcome police into the building.”

“We went from 80 incidents to 39,” he said. “I hope that we speak next year at this time and we are down to zero incidents.”

“The school is continuing to improve in all areas,” he argued. “Last year a team from the Department of Education gave us a mark of 1.7 out of three. This January we got a revisit and our grade went up to a grade of 2.27 out of three. We are definitely getting better.”

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