UPDATE: IPS staff could use force in certain situations under new policy

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 28, 2015)– Fights are nothing new on the playground or in school, but a viral fight earlier this month at Northwest High School is initiating change.The IPS School Board is expected to vote on a new district policy Thursday night that would allow staff to use “limited force” to intervene during fights.

Right now, there is no district-wide policy. It’s on a school by school basis.

When the video from inside Northwest High School went viral, it showed a male student beating up a female student. The male student would later be charged.

Some criticized staff in the video for not breaking up the fight physically, which Northwest High School policy prohibited.

But that could change at the hands of the city’s school board.

“We have a responsibility to protect all the children that are in our care,” said Sam Odle, Board Vice-President.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is pushing to authorize the limited use of physical force by staff members but only in certain situations:

  • To prevent a student from injuring himself/herself or others, including self-defense and the defense of others by a staff member.
  • To stop a student from damaging the property or the Board or others.
  • To end the disruption of an educational function or prevent interference with a school activity.

“What’s minimum force? I still have some issues with that,” said Indianapolis Education Association President, Rhondalyn Cornett.

Cornett said she is skeptical but hopeful about the plan.

Ferebee told the board the policy does not require teachers to intervene but protects them if they do so. He also said staff would be trained and certain staff members identified as first responders.

“Our policies always start from a very broad perspective. So, we’ll drill down and ensure that’s clearly communicated for staff, and that will be in our procedures and administrative guidelines, also training,” said Ferebee.

Cornett said it’s crucial to have a clearer list of what’s expected. Because she said sometimes putting a teacher in the line of fire just is not worth it.

“Recently in the past years when teachers have broken up fights they’ve gotten beaten up, and they’ve gotten hurt. And we can’t risk our own lives,” she said.

The school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

The policy would also prohibit corporal punishment in the district.

The IPS board vote comes on the same day the male student seen attacking a girl in the viral fight video is scheduled to appear in juvenile court for a detention hearing.

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