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Story - Education

Oct 20, 2010 4:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Raucous Meeting Focuses On Fights At Southampton High School

Oct 20, 2010 4:33 PM

Concerns about fighting on Southampton High School grounds and a rampant rumor about a threat of violence targeting the school culminated in a raucous community meeting Monday evening involving Southampton School District administrators and more than 200 parents, students and district employees.

Emotions were high, and the tone reached a fever pitch early on. Just 15 minutes into the special meeting, held in the high school cafeteria, Southampton High School Principal Timothy Mundell, Ed.D., was being peppered with questions from angry parents when he collapsed into a chair; a plastic water bottle he was holding pitched forward, spilling onto a table and the floor. Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance personnel arrived on the scene, and he was helped out of the meeting and later treated at Southampton Hospital and released the same evening.

On Tuesday, he blamed the fainting spell on having gone all day and into the evening without eating or drinking.

In the moments after the principal’s collapse, some parents accused others of attacking him. “This is what we teach our children?” one cried.

The issues that prompted the meeting—two seniors were accused by police of assaulting a freshman on school grounds last week, the latest of several physical altercations on school grounds, and a former student allegedly issued a threat that he would commit violence on school grounds on Tuesday—can largely be blamed on the ubiquity and anonymity of technology, namely text messaging, school district officials said. It also can be difficult to properly investigate such incidents for the same reasons, they said.

“What is happening is that the message is getting transmitted instantly, so if there’s any type of incident—before the administrators can investigate, even before they can determine who’s involved—kids are sending messages out ... before we have a chance to get facts,” explained Superintendent J. Richard Boyes, Ed.D.

Officials also pointed to technology as part of a potential solution. Superintendent for Instruction Nicholas Dyno, Ed.D. suggested that in addition to reviewing the district’s cell phone policy, the district will encourage better communication with families via e-mail and Google Groups, online discussion groups that can be used much like e-mail.

Officials also cited the frequency of underclassmen socializing with upperclassmen as a concern in the rough-and-tumble high school social scene. Freshmen attending parties hosted by older students “[makes] the partners of those juniors and seniors furious,” said Dr. Dyno. That was a factor in each of the seven incidents that have led to out-of-school suspensions so far this school year, the former high school principal said.

Parents, however, suggested that fighting among students at Southampton High School has become pervasive: some at the meeting suggested that fights 
are much more frequent, while another woman shouted out that even seven are too many, since school has been in session for only five weeks. Dr. Boyes, trying to quell the visible outrage, urged parents not to jump to conclusions and warned that rumors spread rapidly and that hearsay is often mistaken for fact.

So far this year, the number of incidents has been higher than usual, the superintendent said in an interview Tuesday. The out-of-school suspensions involved 16 students. Typically, there are seven or eight such incidents in the course of an entire school year, Dr. Boyes said, adding that administrators do not have an explanation for the increase. Of the seven this year, six were classified as physical altercations, and the one last week that involved three girls was classified as an assault with injury. Usually one or two assaults occur at the school each year, he said.

A handful of teachers and students addressed the parents at Monday’s meeting to say that only a small fraction of students are involved in fights, and that there are groups that meet after school where students can discuss issues. Only a few School Board members were present and none spoke at the meeting.

Another issue discussed at the meeting was a threat that a former student was planning an act of violence at the high school this week. According to Southampton Village Police records, police received a phone call on the morning of Tuesday, October 12, from an anonymous parent reporting that his ninth grade son told him a former student had issued the threat to “shoot the place up.” When police called Dr. Mundell, the principal told police the school had received a similar anonymous call, police reports state. Dr. Mundell also told police that several students reported getting text messages saying that the gun violence would take place on Tuesday, October 19. One student connected with the incident had been identified, officials told police, and that student was to be interviewed by the school psychologist.

Police returned to the school the next day to follow up with James Gresham, the district’s director of security. According to police, Mr. Gresham said school officials had identified the student believed to have made the threat and determined that no such threat was ever made. Officials told police they had determined that a female student had told another student that the individual “seemed like the type that could bring a gun to school and shoot people,” and the rumor evolved from that.

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These parents actually need to take a long deep breath and then a long deep look in the mirror. Not until I had kids did I realize that it is up to us, the parents as to how they carry themselves. There is nothing a school or any teacher can do about a criminal student who is set on committing a crime. It started long before that kid got into that school. Teachers were hired to teach and help your child succeed, not to serve as prison guards. But if you were to listen to hollywood and the media, ...more
By yessiree (78), Southampton on Oct 19, 10 12:26 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By whoknows (5), Southampton on Oct 19, 10 1:03 PM
PTO5 Does it really matter what happend to Dr. Mundell? The man fell ill, have some compassion. Bet you could do a better job right? Where you at the football game that night to support the football team to really see what happened or just a rumor starter? I take it you were one of those parents shouting. Maybe take your child out of the school and put him in a bubble or another school because it wouldn't happen their right. If we all took responsibility for our own children, the world would ...more
By whoknows (5), Southampton on Oct 19, 10 1:05 PM
Well said, yessiree. When a three-year student of mine told me he was going to have his father shoot me with a gun and kill me because the child was not happy with a simple school rule, I can tell you this agressive, inappropriate behavior starts way before many children hit the teenage years. Respect for others and authority, as well as boundaries, must be taught and reinforced in the homes. The schools cannot do it all. The community, families and schools need to work together to raise our ...more
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Oct 19, 10 1:06 PM
3 members liked this comment
By MACDADDY (49), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 19, 10 8:45 PM
3 members liked this comment
"Back in the day", my mother never hesitated to beat the crap out of me. She also never hesitated to pound one word into my head:


Respect for yourself, respect for others, respect for life. Have the decency to not only imagine what it must be like to be in someone else's shoes, but see through their eyes when you treat them in whatever manner you choose to.

Of course, one other thing we shouldn't forget, is that boys will be boys, and the testosterone is a mightily ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 20, 10 3:09 PM
all caps = YELLING!
By loading... (601), quiogue on Oct 25, 10 3:12 PM
"According to Southampton Village Police records, police received an phone call on the morning of Tuesday, October 12, from an anonymous parent reporting that his ninth grade son told him a former student had issued the threat. When police called Dr. Mundell, the principal told police the school had received a similar anonymous call, police reports state. Dr. Mundell also told police that several students reported getting text messages saying that the gun violence would take place on Tuesday, October ...more
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Oct 19, 10 8:48 PM
What is going on at the school? This wasn't happening a few years ago. Something's changed. The administration seems to have lost the respect of the students who now feel that anything goes. I've been hearing that the school's been having serious internal problems. Perhaps the school board was too hasty getting rid of Dr Bruno.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Oct 19, 10 8:53 PM
This country is in the midst of a bullying insurgency. Parents talk to your kids. Parents of bullies, do not deny what is happening, take control.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 19, 10 9:51 PM
2 members liked this comment
I agree completely, but kids who bully usually have parents who bully them or others...it's just a vicious cycle. Many parents don't want to take responsiblity for their kids behavior...out of sight out of mind. Like you said, it's all over the country. Kids today have much less respect for others than ever before..themselves, eachother and authority..
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Oct 20, 10 6:56 AM
I doubt it's because of the changes in administration, it's just a toxic tenvironment where the kids are now in control...EVERYWHERE.
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Oct 20, 10 6:58 AM
Waa Waa Waa! protect my children so that I can continue to ignore them at home!
By littleplains (305), olde england on Oct 20, 10 10:11 AM
Maybe it's time to have cell phones and like devices banned from the school day. They could be placed in lockers until the school is out for the day.
By K2040 (8), Southampton on Oct 20, 10 10:34 AM
Cell phones are not allowed in school, nor are other devices. Kids needing to use their phones - to call a parent about pick up times - have to go to the office to make those calls. Kids caught using their phones elsewhere have the phones taken away. I know, my son's was. He learned his lesson.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Oct 20, 10 11:01 AM
kids are angry because they don't feel like they have the same chances their parents had. they are being put onto their parents health insurance and ''child dependents'' until age 29, there are no jobs when they graduate from college - doesn't matter what your grades were, colleges are priced waaaaay to far out of most people's budgets (but all the politicians are pro-education) and they are sick of the lip service. they know the current administration is spending their future right now on union ...more
By yessiree (78), Southampton on Oct 20, 10 11:15 AM
2 members liked this comment
Come on dude.

High School sophomores arent getting into fights at school bc they dont think they can get a job after college.

Thats just idiotic.

By tm (174), mtk on Oct 20, 10 12:23 PM
I bet 99% of the kids who fight couldn't name the current administration if you offered them a million dollars - nice try though.
By whodat5 (12), southampton on Oct 20, 10 10:29 PM
The school adminstration needs to take a zero tolerance stance on violence in and around school grounds. Kids involved in such acts should be imediately suspended. Second offense, expel them Let them know that type of behavior is not acceptable anywhere. Let the teachers do their jobs for the kids who are serious about an education. They are not paid to babysit, police or handle everyones social issues, they are paid to educate our kids.
By lol@hb (20), hampton bays on Oct 20, 10 11:57 AM
2 members liked this comment
I totally agree. However, as soon as Johnny gets in trouble, the parents race down to the school, blame the problem on another child or the teacher, etc. Many hire attorneys. These parents don't want their kids suspended because then they would have to stay home with or handle their children themselves. The school administration has little power when there is not the support of the parents. It always troubles me when a teacher or administrator spends a great deal of his/her day disciplining ...more
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Oct 20, 10 12:35 PM
Instead of expelling kids who get into a fight, a little education could stem the problem. It's a public high school--one that has $35,000 per year per student budgeted--is it too much to ask that the education have a social component as well as an academic one?
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Oct 20, 10 4:28 PM
Well I agreed with your response except for the part where you think students should be "expelled". That's a bit to harsh I think. Regardless, we have to give our children a good education. Maybe on second offense, "mandatory counseling along with suspension". And you are SO RIGHT about how our teachers are NOT babysitters to keep them out of trouble.
By whatsup1963 (3), Southampton on Oct 22, 10 8:20 PM
yessiree is not an idiot, but as the tiny buddah says, people see the world with whatever is in their hearts. in case you haven't read, childhood development experts are having a hard time because race relations and general populace anger is at an all time high, negative sentiment, positive outlook...all of that stuff is at an all time low. kids are affected by this. when the country feels good, it affects everything...when the news is all bad, adults and media portray anger, outrage and hopelessness, ...more
By mackt (73), montauk on Oct 20, 10 1:27 PM
as an example go to the article on this site that is written by a high school student. then go to the comments. an adult goes on to call this student an idiot and tear the article apart. the basis for the rage are socio-political issues of today. do you think that the child is immune? if it were me, i would be checking every day and then be totally hurt by that. but for all of the hot air blanketing the lands about pro education politicians, doesn't seem to matter does it. Not unless we get ...more
By mackt (73), montauk on Oct 20, 10 1:32 PM
If this is such a raucous meeting, why is that woman in the front row on the right sound asleep? Now, as for this bullying and so forth, I say, let it play itself out. The kids need to create their own pecking order, if you will, just like in real life, or in a steel cage match, or a pitt bull ring. A kid who is bullied all the time may finally work up the courage to slug someone, and it'll help him the rest of his life. If that happens to be a teacher or someone half his age, well I'm sorry. School ...more
By Manorville Major (16), manorville on Oct 20, 10 2:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yes i agree that us parents need to have better control on whats going on. I also agree us parents have our children to love them, take care of them and protect them so why can't the school do the same when our children are in their hands. Also there are rules and rules are you touch anyone you are suspended and the girls who did that werent suspended and then it got worse the next day, now thats the schools fault. I am on my second child in this school and i have one more to go into the school ...more
By Mommy (2), southampton on Oct 20, 10 4:14 PM
girls fighting over boys? Sounds very Italy to me. And yes , there is too much of that going around right now. Paladino is a disgrace. Please consider voting the RDH party for governor.
By deKooning (106), southampton on Oct 20, 10 4:21 PM
An AP in East Hampton was punched in the face by a student today - report on that and leave Southampton alone.
By whodat5 (12), southampton on Oct 20, 10 10:26 PM
Does Southampton School District have a positive behavioral support system in place? I'm sure when it comes down to it, an overwhelming majority of students in the schools are respectful, display self-control, and are working towards achieving goals they have made for themselves. The students who are causing the problems are a small number. More security guards are not the answer. Security guards can only try to stop a problem after it has begun. The real solution is stopping these problems before ...more
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on Oct 23, 10 12:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree that cellpones are part of the blame. Cell phone policies are a joke at schools, even teachers don't abide by the rules. So maybe school administrators should look at the technology that blocks out cell phone signals on school grounds. Then all would abide.................
By mrtog (7), wading river on Oct 27, 10 7:53 AM
1 member liked this comment