Students and parents protest

Published 6:39 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The perception that unequal treatment of a student subjected to disciplinary measures was about to occur prompted a protest in the vicinity of the Picayune school board meeting Tuesday night, with the crowd chanting, “Zero tolerance, no exceptions.”

An incident that occurred Aug. 24 involving a gun found in a vehicle parked at the school created a stir when rumors began circulating that the student was back at school because she is related to a member of the school board.

“We believe this is because of (preferred) treatment because of who she is and who’s involved, relatives on the school board,” said Laura Raiford who put together the protest.

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Raiford said her daughter told her that the student charged with bringing the gun has been back on school grounds and at school assemblies.

If the school board does not vote to expel the student who brought the gun to school then Raiford said she plans to see what kind of legal recourse she can take. Her main concern is that if incidents like this go unpunished there would be no fear of retribution.

“So who’s to say she’s going to show up one day and this time bring it (the gun) into the school,” Raiford said.

Taylor Raiford, Laura Raiford’s daughter and a member of the Picayune High School Security Council, said she has seen the student who brought the gun to school back on the grounds about three times even though Taylor does not share a class or lunch with the student. Taylor Raiford said she would like to see some justice in the gun situation.

“If there is a loaded handgun on campus, it should be an automatic expulsion,” Taylor Raiford said. “It could be any day she comes back with another gun.”

Expulsion was the punishment handed down in the Picayune Junior High School to a girl who only brought a pocket knife.

Daryl Glenn said her 13 year-old daughter was caught with a pocket knife Sept. 30, and she was expelled for it. A cell phone ringing in class prompted a class-wide search when no one would claim the ringing phone. During the search, Glenn said her daughter was found with a pocket knife in her possession. Even though she had never been in trouble before, except for a tardiness detention she was set to serve that very day, the school decided to expel her, Glenn said.

“She’s a volunteer for the Humane Society, she’s just a good kid,” Glenn said.

Because of her daughter’s expulsion, Glenn said she had to pull her child from school and she refuses to put her in the Center for Alternative Education because she says that school has a bad reputation.

For a short time, friends of the student involved watched the protest in front of Crosby Memorial Library from afar. They say they know the circumstances that the student was in and feel that she should not be judged so harshly.

“Ninety percent of these people don’t know the situation (she) was in,” said Jacob Hickman.

“The people who know her are on this side of the street,” said Kevin Hillery.

Micah Hickman said that the car the student had the gun in was not parked on school property and that she brought the gun because she feared her life was in danger. Threatening phone calls and voice mails saying the student could meet her end at school prompted her to bring the gun to school, said Suzanne Smith.

“She was keeping it in the car for safety,” Micah Hickman said.

Other students speculate that the reason the students were protesting was because they are jealous of the student who brought the gun to school because “she is gorgeous and sweet,” Smith said.

A former student at Picayune High said that he was told not to come to school the last two weeks before his graduation solely on the rumor that he planned to bring a gun to school. In 1999, Jason Lamonte said someone informed the police that they overheard him say he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot people. When the police searched him, the only thing they found was what the school officials deemed offensive artwork, he said. Lamonte said he was told he had to see a psychiatrist and get the doctor’s approval before he could be allowed back in school. When the psychiatrist would not give approval, the school simply gave Lamonte his diploma and a refund on his cap and gown.

“I think they did that because they knew they were in the wrong,” Lamonte said.

Catherine Bell said she had to fight to get her daughter back into school in February 2006 after she was attacked by a school mate’s mother. The attack on her daughter took place out side of school, but when Bell tried to put her daughter back in school after she recovered from injuries suffered in the attack, Bell was told that her daughter’s presence would cause a riot since the attacker’s daughter also goes to Picayune High.

“So I literally had to get a lawyer and come to the school board and fight to get her back in school,” Bell said.

Bell said the attacker was a 36 year-old woman who brought her child to fight Bell’s child. Instead the 36 year-old woman got out of the car and hit her daughter over the head with a glass bottle, then stabbed her seven times. Bell said she was unsure if the weapon used to stab her daughter was a broken bottle. Bell said she is currently waiting to go to court on the attack. Even though the doctor had cleared Bell’s daughter to go back to school a week later, legal actions Bell pursued pushed it back to a month, she said.

Tanna Reese said she and a teacher got into a verbal altercation concerning a smart remark she made to another student about the teacher. The teacher overhead the comment and she and the teacher then had a verbal altercation, which Reese said lead to scratches on her arms. Reese said she was suspended for nine days and is still under review for expulsion.

Megan Purvis said she was suspended for three days for skipping a class even though she had her parent’s permission to leave that day. The only problem was that Purvis did not sign out in the proper manner, said her mother, Ginger Purvis.

“They said if they let us go, then they would have to let everyone else go,” Megan Purvis said.

“If someone else wants to bring a gun to school, that’s OK,” Megan Purvis said. “If I couldn’t get out of my punishment, then she shouldn’t either.”

Laura Raiford said she has no problem with the security officer who did his job like he was supposed to.

“I compliment the campus security, they did their job that day,” Laura Raiford said. “Thank God nobody got hurt.”