A series of fights and arrests involving more than a dozen students at Lawrence High School has put school officials, parents, and students in the city on high alert.
Mayor Kendrys Vasquez has scheduled an emergency joint meeting of the School Committee and City Council for Monday, 7 p.m., at the city’s public library. State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and School Superintendent Cynthia Paris have been invited to attend.
“Members of the public are deeply concerned about the developments at Lawrence High School, “ Vasquez said in a statement Thursday night. Fourteen students were involved in altercations on Oct. 8, school officials said, and staff were hurt while trying to intervene during a fight that broke out Tuesday. On Wednesday an incident at dismissal resulted in three students getting arrested, according to Paris.
“I’m saddened by that,” she said during a public meeting Wednesday. “Our students are in crisis.”
Paris said she was on the campus Tuesday when an altercation broke out during first lunch.
“What was incredible was when the two students were at this fight, one student passed the phone to another one, ensuring that the student was recording the altercation, and later requesting it for reviewing and asking about her performance during the fight,” she said.
There have been five arrests and 12 summons issued since the start of school, according to Lawrence Police Detective Thomas M. Cuddy.
A dean and some teachers had to receive medical attention as a result of intervening in physical altercations among students, according to Lawrence Teachers’ Union president Kimberly Barry.
“Our kids are in crisis right now,” Barry said in a telephone interview. “We think the district should hire additional staff – teachers, mental health workers, nurses – because everyone’s spread really thin right now.”
Vasquez announced on Tuesday additional safety resources for the school, including two school resource officers and two community police officers. In a statement, Vasquez suggested the disturbances showed that in-person school after a more than 12-month break is taking a mental and emotional toll on students, educators, and the community.
In his statement Thursday night, Vasquez said that the involvement of Lawrence school administrators and the state will be necessary to address the root cause of the violence.
“I have done everything in my power to provide aid to the district within the constraints of receivership,” he said.