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Increase in fights rattle school districts

School hallway by RonTech2000

ATLANTA — A recent video of two Henry County students fighting in a classroom has prompted a series of community meetings among parents, school and police officials, and mental health experts looking to curb the violence.

Less than a month into this school year, Clayton County schools reported a 200% increase in school fights, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The problem was so troubling that the superintendent at the time took to YouTube to seek help from parents.  

“All of us must do our part to ensure safe schools,” former Clayton County schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley said in the video. “I need you to be engaged.” Beasley left the district in December. 

The ongoing bad behavior at schools throughout the state has exacerbated the educator exodus. Some 41% of more than 5,600 teachers surveyed last year cited student behavior as a top reason they’re leaving the profession, according to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators’ (PAGE) “Views from the School House: Insights from Georgia Educators 2022” report.

Students with disciplinary problems in Clayton County schools are now placed in separate “learning rooms.” Meanwhile, in Fulton County, schools reported expulsions were double last school year than before the pandemic.

All told, more than 56,000 fights were reported in schools across the state during the 2021-22 school year, according to the Georgia Department of Education.

The post-COVID-19 classroom is a different picture from what Georgia’s School Climate Rating system was intended to capture.

“School discipline issues have been significantly impacted post-COVID,” Leslie Hazle Bussey, chief executive and executive director of the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement, told State Affairs.

About 56% of teachers and 7 in 10 school counselors, social workers, and psychologists report their schools do not have enough counselors to meet students’ needs, the PAGE report noted. It is particularly the case when dealing with growing mental health problems.

The state does not provide an annual allotment of funding for school safety to schools or districts though it has periodically provided funds to offset safety costs. School districts cover safety costs, including compliance with state requirements, with local funds, the PAGE report noted.

You can reach Tammy Joyner on Twitter @lvjoyner or at [email protected]. Joyner is State Affairs’ senior investigative reporter in Georgia. A Georgia transplant, she has lived in the Peach State for nearly 30 years.


Want to see how your individual school or school district performed on the last School Climate Star Rating? Find out here.

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