Pinellas Park Police report 18 battery cases at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School over past six months

PINELLAS PARK - A video posted to Youtube showing Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School students fistfighting is among dozens that show escalating violence at the school, according to teachers.

"It is just a matter of time before something really bad happens there," said a teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

This teacher told ABC Action News they witness seven or eight physical fights a day and even refers to the majority of sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the school as "bloodthirsty animals."

A Pinellas Park police officer does work at the school.  A look through their reports revealed 18 battery cases over the past six months along with dozens of fights.

"They are getting their heads knocked against walls, lockers and I've seen kids choked," the teacher said.

Just last week, according to this teacher, a female student was jumped when she walked into school and ended up with a concussion. 

"She kept saying, 'You look blurry,'" this teacher recalled.

But, it is not just boy on boy fights and girl on girl fights.  These teachers told ABC Action News they've witnessed boys beat up girls.

"It is just unsettling going to your job and not knowing if you are going to come home that day and if you could keep kids safe," this teacher explained.

Renee, a single mother who asked for her last name not to be used in order to protect her daughter, says a boy at the school is threatening to physically harm her daughter.

The threats according to Renee have gotten so bad, she has kept her daughter home from school 10 days this month alone.

"It is nerve-wracking," said Renee.  "[When she is at school] I am texting her all day.  I know she is not supposed to be texting."

Renee told ABC Action News her daughter's grades are slipping and her daughter is emotionally distraught.

"When I can't control her safety I get very overwhelmed," Renee explained.

According to Renee, her daughter was offered a personal escort to and from all classes after her concerns were taken to the school principal.

"There is no follow through.  I call and call and call," Renee explained.

School leaders declined to discuss these issues on camera.   They did release this statement via email on Friday.

"The assistant principal at the school and the School Resource Officer have spoken with this parent and are working to address the parent's concerns," wrote Melanie Marquez-Parra, public information officer for Pinellas County Schools.  "They are available to schedule additional meetings to address any other concerns.  Safety is a priority at all Pinellas County Schools, and the administrators and teachers at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School work hard to provide a safe, productive learning environment for all students."

But the teachers who spoke with ABC Action News believe school leaders are failing to create and maintain a safe environment.

"A lot of times we feel the referrals aren't processed and our data stays at a certain level so we don't look like the bad school."

This teacher said school leaders tell them to work the disciplinary protocol which requires teachers to call parents and then write a referral.  However, these teachers claim they have seen referrals ripped up in front of them.

"They tell us sometimes there are special circumstances.  We don't know if the kids face consequences.  Sometimes they are back in our class the exact same day," one teacher said.

One of the teachers who came forward said they were injured in a student fight when they were thrown up against lockers.  The teacher went home with a black eye.

ABC Action News did request an interview with the middle school's SRO but we did not immediately hear back.


                                          MONTH                           # of CASES

                                          Feb. 2013                             3

                                          Jan.  2013                             3

                                          Dec. 2012                             4

                                          Nov. 2012                              2

                                          Oct. 2012                              4

                                          Sept. 2012                            2

   * Statistics provided by Capt. Sanfield Forseth, public information officer for Pinellas Park Police Department.

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