NewsPolk County


Polk parents rally against violence in schools, ask school board for more communication

Posted at 6:01 PM, Sep 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 19:35:30-04

BARTOW, Fla. -- Parents are rallying against violence and bullying in Polk County Schools.

Many are expected to show up to Tuesday’s Polk County School Board meeting to be heard. The overall message from parents is that they are frustrated with how school leaders handle bullying or violence situations in the schools.

“He was embarrassed that so many people saw the video passed around,” Lauren Springfield, a mother of a victim who was assaulted inside a Blake Academy locker room.

Springfield made the difficult decision to share one of three videos taken of the fight. She says she shared it to call attention to the lack of action by the school district.


On Tuesday, she says her 12-year-old is doing great despite the attention the story has received.

“Pretty amazed I think he’s handling it better than the rest of us,” she said.

Springfield, as well as other parents, put out a call on social media for those affected to stand up and rally at Tuesday’s board meeting. Many parents calling for long-term action plans and better communication between school leaders and parents.

“There’s increased safety today, but does that mean two months from now once things die down that all of a sudden it’s going to go back to the way that it was?” She said.

ABC Action News spoke with a handful of parents last spring who claim their children were experiencing bullying and/or violence in Polk County Schools. Incidents ranged from hitting, verbal abuse to student allegedly telling a child to commit suicide.

“It is going to take us coming together to make this difference for our children,” Tracey Dannemiller, a grandmother ABC Action News interviewed previously. Dannemiller says granddaughter was forcefully hit, leaving a large bruise on her face for days. Up until this point Dannemiller tells ABC Action News the situation has not been resolved.

On Tuesday, we found out Gregory Adams, a physical education teacher at Blake Academy, was on paid administrative leave in regards to the fight that took place in the locker room. Parents claim the P.E. teacher was just around the corner and in his office during the fight.

When we told Springfield he had been placed on administrative leave it was the first time she had heard this new information.

“Oh I had no idea, no idea,” she said.

ABC Action News reached out to the Polk County School District for comment and were told the schools were working on a new behavior program. See their response below.

This school year, Polk County Public Schools began a new comprehensive student behavior and discipline plan.

“We have more than 105,000 students in our district. There is a very small portion of our student population who needs additional social and emotional supports to help them develop self-regulation skills,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd in a video address to PCPS staff members about the plan. “We have heard our staff members’ concerns regarding these students, and we have responded.”

You can watch Superintendent Byrd’s full address here

The major pillars of the plan that began this year include:

  • The creation of a new protocol for schools to request behavioral support. Schools will have a designated contact for all behavioral support requests. They will know who to call when they need help, and when they pick up the phone, they will initiate a systemized, standardized sequence of events.
  • Behavior support requests will be logged and tracked in the district’s new behavior support tracking system. This system will help PCPS classify the type of supports needed and track the effectiveness of its response.
  • In addition to standardizing how behavior support requests are made, the district will create five regional response teams. Each team will include: a board-certified behavior analyst, behavior specialist, mental health facilitator, positive behavioral intervention and support facilitators, school psychologist, school social worker, academic behavior support teacher, and registered behavioral technician.
  • These teams will work collaboratively with schools to respond to individual student behavior issues. They will also work with schools to strengthen school culture and classroom management in an effort to prevent future behavioral issues.
  • We will create a full continuum of instructional settings, which will include therapeutic sites for elementary and secondary students, day treatment settings and residential settings. These sites will provide intense behavioral health supports that will help students develop the skills they need to return to a less restrictive classroom environment.
  • As the various components of this plan are put into place, a district-level team will provide oversight, guidance and accountability. This team will meet regularly to review our progress.

There was a presentation made to the School Board, which includes more information. You can watch the full presentation here.

“It is my expectation that through the implementation of the student behavior and discipline plan we will improve the district’s response to behavioral, social and emotional issues and expand the districtwide continuum of behavioral and mental health supports,” Superintendent Byrd said.

“We will create a more efficient, consistent and supportive environment in which our students and staff will thrive,” Byrd added.