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Parents and teachers voice concern over violence in Pawhuska Public Schools

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Posted at 5:03 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-21 18:03:02-04

PAWHUSKA, Okla. -- From the outside, Pawhuska Public Schools appear to be peaceful. But within the classroom, some staff members said students are fighting.

"I've actually seen kids walk up behind other kids and grab them, and slam them on the ground. My own child came to me due to that incident happening to her," reading instructor Susan Martin said.

Martin said students will even turn on teachers, screaming and threatening them on campus. The elementary school instructor tells 2 Works for You more involvement from the superintendent would help. But Martin said she only visits about three times a year.

"These kids are bigger than some of the teachers. It made me scared if, what if I turn my back on you... what's going to happen?" she said.

The superintendent denied our request for an interview, but did send us a statement saying:

"The school administration and counselors work together to provide student support... and the appropriate disciplinary procedures, if needed. This may included loss of recess, in school detention, or suspension depending on the offense."

But Pawhuska parents said larger punishments, like suspensions, are rarely put into action.

"When one of my boys was in kindergarten he was being physically assaulted daily. The kid was bringing blood, leaving bruises. They would send the kid that was assaulting to the office and he would come right back. Nothing was ever done to the child," Jennifer Deatherage said.

Deatherage tells us things were so bad that she pulled all four of her children out of the district this year. She tells us abuse is widespread, and it's not just physical.

"Telling them to go kill themselves or telling them they're ugly and they shouldn't be on this earth... suspend them, talk to their parents, make them do counseling... do something to stop it," Deatherage said.

On more than one occasion, staff said they've seen the issue move past basic rough-housing.

"I know of one kid that brings pocket knives to school. I've told him several times "you can't be doing that". I reported him. But what's to keep a kid from grabbing a pencil?" Martin said.

Superintendent Jan Neufeld did make note of a student bringing a knife on campus. But she said staff members work closely with law enforcement in these types of situations.

Parents and staff admit there is an increased police presence on campus. But Martin is still giving up her lunch to help manage detention for teachers.

"They would have 30, 40 kids lined up on the wall for misbehaving and you can't watch all these kids out here misbehaving and try to keep your eye on the kids that are good," she said.

Pawhuska Police said outside of their normal patrols at the schools, officers have responded at least three times to issues concerning violence this year. That includes a call last fall when a student brought multiple guns and ammunition on campus.

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