FOX23 Investigation: Handling conflicts in Tulsa schools

TULSA, Okla. — Quick Facts:

  • FOX23's Shae Rozzi investigated the numbers of fights in Tulsa Public Schools and how many weapons are brought on campus.
  • Changes made this school year are reducing the suspension rate.
  • FOX23 also talked to students about the new ways they are learning to deal with conflict.
No parent wants to hear about shots fired on a school campus.
After a shooting at Tulsa’s McLain High School football game this season, FOX23 wanted to find out how often weapons are brought into schools, and what is changing on campus to keep students safe.
We saw students sitting without their phones, separated between boys and girls, at Monroe demonstration Academy. They were having a reflective lunch, so eighth graders could reflect on bad decisions during a school assembly. Officials said it one way to lower the number of fights there.
FOX23 found the numbers of fights at Tulsa Public Schools.
What was most surprising, was who was fighting the most.
High schoolers fought 259 times last year, but middle schools got into more than 600 fights. Elementary students, however, got into more than 1,000 fights, more than four times the number of fights involving high school students.

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The number of weapons was five times higher in elementary schools than in high schools too.
Reports showed more than 134 weapons found in elementary schools, compared to 37 in middle schools and 24 in high schools.

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Tulsa Public Schools said that’s not quite what it seems.
Stephanie Andrews, the interim senior director of student engagement, said those weapons are not necessarily as dangerous as one may at first think.
“It could be a plastic knife that was brought to school for like a lunch knife,” Andrews said. “If a water gun looks like a weapon, it could be considered in this report as well.”
She went on to say that principals are required to report the weapons, no matter what.
Dr. Ebony Johnson with Student and Family Services said there is often more to the story when fights are concerned as well.
“In many cases, it’s a breakdown in family,” Johnson said.
For the first time ever, school leaders tried a different approach before this school year. They invited 40 students suspended for an extensive period of time over weapons on campus or assaults to come in with their families and set up a success plan. Johnson said only two students have strayed.
“Some of them cried,” she said.
Most students and educators are trying to avoid suspensions altogether.
Johnson said the Restore Center is an alternative to the practice.
“Here, we’ve come to common ground of yelling, hurting, fighting,” Johnson said.
The program is similar to in-school suspension, but students are together, learning from one another how to respond to conflict, rather than sitting alone.
One seventh grader told FOX23 that the Restore Center gave him a chance to calm down after an incident in which he became upset.
Tulsa Public Schools also started rolling out conflict resolution cards. Those cards are used to praise students for using them, telling students to take a deep breath and urging them to find a trusted adult before something gets out of hand.
So far this year, suspensions are down nearly 50 percent overall at Tulsa Public Schools.
Schools say there are more pros to keeping kids in schools instead of suspending them. School funding is based on enrollment.
Tulsa Public Schools, however, said they want parents to know they will not jeopardize safety for dollars.

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