By Denise Dick
The city school district is calling on those close to a higher power for help in restoring calm at Chaney High School.
Earlier this week, police used pepper spray to break up two fights at the school within 35 minutes.
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church said Superintendent Wendy Webb asked him to enlist the help of area pastors.
“She’s being proactive,” the Rev. Mr. Macklin said.
He sent an e-mail to fellow pastors Thursday, asking for assistance.
“The presence of clergy as community leaders has been requested to restore a calming presence at Chaney High School for the next several days,” Mr. Macklin wrote.
He said the partnership between the city schools and area clergy has existed for a long time, and this isn’t the first time clergy have gone into the schools. Some go weekly.
“We’re not there to proselytize or to bring people to our churches,” Mr. Macklin said. “We’re just there to provide a calming presence.”
The clergy aren’t there to replace administrators or to dole out discipline, he said.
Webb said the problem Tuesday occurred after a random weapons check at the school. The checks, which occur regularly, involve metal detectors set up at school entrances.
“It wasn’t as tight as it could have been,” she said.
Administrators at Chaney are new this year, the superintendent said.
When dealing with students, school personnel have to make sure there aren’t too many students in the hall at a time and to be on the lookout for problems.
Changes have been implemented to try to reduce the possibility of a similar occurrence, Webb said.
The pastors talk to the students and encourage them. Many of the students attend their churches and have a rapport with them.
With the pastors there, the students are more apt to display behavior their parents would want to see, Mr. Macklin said.
“It does not supplant building leaders and administrators,” the pastor said. “It’s just an additional presence, extra eyes.”
John T. Allen, district ombudsmen, agreed.
“Basically it’s just additional support and someone who is a part of the community that the students are a part of,” he said.
Assistant administrators from other schools have been assisting at Chaney since Tuesday’s fights, he said. Things have quieted down.
The pastors are asked to help in the schools from either 8 a.m. to noon or 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Tuesday. “We figure it will be a nice overlap with the lunch hour to be there just to support staff,” Mr. Macklin said.
Some students may respond differently when dealing with a member of the clergy than when it’s someone from school, he said.
“Part of it may be because it’s someone from outside the classroom, outside of the school,” Mr. Macklin said. “Some of it might be also respecting the calling, who we represent.”