Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued September 21 at 5:18PM EDT expiring September 21 at 6:00PM EDT in effect for: Holmes, Stark, Summit, Wayne
Severe Thunderstorm Watch issued September 21 at 4:34PM EDT expiring September 21 at 11:00PM EDT in effect for: Ashtabula, Geauga, Holmes, Knox, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Wayne
Severe Thunderstorm Watch issued September 21 at 4:32PM EDT expiring September 21 at 11:00PM EDT in effect for: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Muskingum, Tuscarawas
LORAIN, Ohio - There have been than 20 fights in Lorain High School not even a month into the school year, according to School Board President Tony Dimacchia.
"I know for a fact there has been at least 20 different fights; there's been a gun situation at a freshman football game that resulted in a shooting a couple blocks away. There was an officer that got surrounded by six different students that looked like they wanted to beat him up," Dimacchia said.
As of Thursday, Lorain students are 16 school days into the year.
"There are a lot of people concerned for their safety," Dimacchia added.
Those concerns and the reports of fights and issues over the past few weeks, led to News 5's requests for more information this week.
Lorain Police responded right away and said they don't handle reports of assaults within the school, but have plans to address violence issues with school officials next week.
Lorain's District CEO, David Hardy, replied via an email and read, in part:
"The politics of the city is something I choose not to engage in because we are determined to change the academic outcomes for our kids. We take safety seriously and unfortunately perception of Lorain has overshadowed the reality in our schools and buildings."
Hardy was not available for an interview Thursday. Neither was the high school's executive director, Daniel Garvey.
Hardy and Garvey both provided News 5 with statements already sent to families and the Lorain Board of Education.
"To start, we must remove the isolated behaviors of fewer than twenty scholars, so that the educational well-being of 2,000 scholars can thrive," Hardy said in a statement sent to Lorain families.
According to Garvey's statement, students involved in recent fights have faced suspensions, even with a new discipline policy in place focused on restoration first.
Per the policy, before facing suspension, a student involved in a conflict will participate in a restorative process where they will complete an assignment, meet with a guidance counselor, meet with a social worker and attend a conference with a director. Then, the student behind the conflict will take part in a "restorative circle" with those impacted.
The only Lorain official willing and able to go on camera Thursday was the school board president.
But News 5 found there's a larger background here.
Per state House Bill 70, District CEO David Hardy is in control - the bill stripped the board of most power, after years of poor state report card performance.
The Lorain Board of Education is currently actively speaking out about these issues and isn't happy with how they are being handled.
"House Bill 70 stripped us of all of our authority, so all we can do is expose what's going on," Dimacchia told News 5.
So, red tape aside, how do parents proceed?
That's not a question the school district has completely addressed in the two statements they've issued, or in News 5's email correspondence with Lorain police officials.
News 5 told Dimacchia that parents and grandparents won't go on camera because they're scared of retaliation for their kids in the school.
"We hear the same thing," Dimacchia responded. "Parents are scared. Local school districts are getting a lot of our kids because they're pulling kids out."
News 5 was told the Chief of Police has a meeting scheduled with the CEO of Lorain Schools early next week.
The school board is also meeting next week and is expected to discuss the issue again.