"Breeding ground for another school shooter": Parents left upset after Heatly meeting on fights

Parents of Heatly School students said they were "outraged" and left without answers after a meeting set up by the Green Island Union Free School District Tuesday evening.

The meeting of parents, teachers and the administration was called to address recent violence in the small district that forced a switch to remote learning this week.

NewsChannel 13 talked to multiple parents who said their kids had been physically assaulted at school, and they were still terrified to send their kids back inside the building after the meeting.

“We are looking at another breeding ground for another school shooter,” said Katherine Ellis, who has several children in the district, including a senior at Heatly High School.

Ellis believes the problem is with a handful of kids who know that punishment from the district is inconsistent. Other parents said it was the loss of longtime respected teachers.

“You have two types of school shooters, you have the victims who finally broke, and you have the ones who felt like they had nowhere else to turn, and then you have the ones who are looking for fame, the ones who are looking for notoriety. And right now in Heatly School, you have both, a massive amount of both,” Ellis said. “And we’re trying to get this fixed before this school becomes the next Sandy Hook.”

Ellis said parents had brought these concerns to the administration during a community discussion in November and did not feel as though they were taken seriously.

“I’m scared sending my kids every day,” she said.

Tuesday, district leaders presented many different ways they said they would work to make school safer, including increasing visibility of teachers in the hallway and starting up a hall pass system.

Several parents interrupted the administration or stormed out as they presented the plan and took questions that were submitted prior.

Superintendent Kim Ross said she was planning to host collaborative groups to come up with a set of values for the school and have parents help revise the code of conduct based on those values. The district also planned to expand the opportunities for detention during lunch period.

“When we come back on that Monday, it cannot be business as usual,” Ross said.

She also named a number of outside programs aimed at addressing student behavior that the school planned to implement with help from the school resource officer, including a program teaching upperclassmen how to mentor their younger peers.

The administration also said it had given 57 out-of-school suspensions so far this academic year. Parents told NewsChannel 13 they were not confident that number was correct in a high school of less than 100 kids.

The administrators also partly blamed bad behavior on trauma from the pandemic. Parents said it goes back longer than that.

“Our kids truly and honestly are acting out because all of the teachers they’ve had for years and trusted have been let go,” said Krystle Johnson, whose daughter attends Heatly.

“The teachers have been drowning. And without the trust between the teachers and the administration, nothing is ever going to happen,” Ellis said. “The community members, as you saw, are outraged.”

Ellis countered the school’s plan with a list of requests she handed out during the meeting and said have been ignored by the administration. The document was titled “How to save Heatly School in Four Steps.”

Parents said they feel cell phones have fueled violence as kids record each other and record fighting for social media—one of the demands calls for a cell phone ban.

Ellis’ demands include the resignation of Ross, who has been with the district for three years. NewsChannel 13 asked Ross for her reaction after the meeting and she did not take our questions.

“I don’t think that anything got accomplished… they didn’t answer half of our questions,” Johnson said. “I would like to see them follow through with like detention and out-of-school suspension. Hold these kids accountable for what they are doing.”

Administrators said they would provide answers to all questions that were submitted later on the district website.

Students are learning remotely this week, then on February break next week and due back in the classroom February 28.