Melee at Arabia Mountain High: ‘Turn Up Thursday’ and Twitter turn DeKalb school into a mess

An Arabia Mountain student posted this Facebook photo of police at Arabia Mountain High on Thursday.

An Arabia Mountain student tweeted this photo of police at the school Thursday.

UPDATE Monday: AJC education writer Ernie Suggs is doing a news story on what happened at Arabia Mountain. He says: I want to talk to a parent or a student who was at the school and witnessed the event. I can be reached at 404-526-5672 and esuggs@ajc.com.

Several of you have asked about a purported student melee at Arabia Mountain High School on Thursday that apparently was fueled by an avalanche of Twitter messages and led to police descending in force.

I have asked DeKalb Schools for official comment. I have not received one yet.

Here is one of the e-mails I received from a reader: On Thursday there were two food fights, a fire in the bathroom, flooding from a broken pipe, over a dozen county police officers.  It appears to be something called Turn it up Thursday.

If you search Twitter, you will find dozens and dozens of messages from Arabia Mountain students saying,  “I survived #TurnUpThursday” or “Glad I survived #TURNUPTHURSDAY.”

Many of the tweets reference assistant principal Monica Black, saying, “Monica Black .. DIDN’T Survive #TurnUpThursday At Arabia Mountain High School.”

(There was also a message that said, “Thanks to #TurnUpThursday, today is #EatLunchInTheClassroomFriday.”)

A half hour ago, a female student posted this comment on Twitter: “That was a crazy day that will forever go down in Arabia Mountain History.. LMAO.”  (That stands for “laughing my a** off.”)

She’s right, but it will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.

It has tarnished the school’s name and reputation and fed the critics who believe DeKalb is a system on the decline.  You can get a sense of the community outrage over this event by checking out the comments on DeKalb School Watch.

I asked a poster whose children attend Arabia if his kids were affected: He said:

Unfortunately my son was in the cafeteria when the melee began.  I’m thankful he remembered my teachings and moved as far away as possible.

In keeping with wanting to go paperless, the school provided the wireless security code to the students.  This is what provided the opportunity for the Twitter messages that when out during the school day.  I wonder if the school will reconsider this given the negative publicity that has come from the students’ messages.  In our day things like this happened but we didn’t have the Internet to let the entire world see our misbehaving.

There are four parent meetings after we return from the holiday break.  I will assume they will want to discuss what happened along with possible changes in school policies.  This incident has given a regretful black eye to the school and community.

Before the rants begin about urban schools run amok, this chain-reaction bedlam happens at all sorts of schools. I covered a swank suburb in my first job and a similar event happened there, although there was no Twitter to escalate a food fight into senseless vandalism.

I am sorry this happened for all the good kids at Arabia who came to school Thursday ready to learn.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

176 comments Add your comment

Digger

December 17th, 2011
10:03 pm

Happens at all schools? Please.

Maureen Downey

December 17th, 2011
10:06 pm

@digger, You’re right. See change. My point — this chain reaction insanity happens in all sorts of schools.
Maureen

RamblinWreck

December 17th, 2011
10:19 pm

“In keeping with wanting to go paperless, the school provided the wireless security code to the students. This is what provided the opportunity for the Twitter messages that when out during the school day.”

This person is completely clueless, people can still send messages to Twitter using their phones (SMS) even without access to the school’s wireless internet.

irisheyes

December 17th, 2011
10:37 pm

And yet, it’s the teachers’ fault when these hoodlums don’t want to learn.

Mahopinion

December 17th, 2011
10:57 pm

Ah yes, blame technology for students misbehaving.

UGA Student

December 17th, 2011
11:19 pm

As a graduate of the DeKalb County School System, I can attest to the system’s shoddy quality. They use facility upgrades as a band-aid for this type of behavior, as opposed to rewarding schools that produce productive members of society. I guess it makes sense that my alma mater finally got technology upgrades when all of the good students and teachers left. (Dunwoody, for those keeping score at home)

Chris

December 18th, 2011
12:31 am

Turn off the wireless and they will send texts.
Turn off the mobile service and they will pass notes.
Take away their paper and pens and they will coordinate by word of mouth.

Instead of suppressing access to technology, look at their motivations. Address those, and this incident won’t recur. If you choose to ignore those motivations and flail pointlessly against their tools of communication, do not be surprised when they strike back ten times harder.

Dekalb taxpayer

December 18th, 2011
1:21 am

The most disturbing thing about this news is that this is a school which was supposed to have the cream of the crop. Students had to apply and meet certain criteria to get in, if I recall correctly. Some of the twitters imply that some students (and it may be a small minority—I’d be interested in knowing what percentage of students were actually involved in the misbehavior and vandalism)were bothered by the school’s reputation as a place of learning and wanted to show that they were as thuggish as other DCSS high schools. If any of the students who participated in Thursday’s actions are occupying slots which could have gone to other students, I hope they will be sent back to their home schools (or an alternative school) and that slot given to more worthy students.

Many of the twitters also refer to the inadequacy of the administration of the school. The reaction to this event will certainly be a test of that administration. And the handling of the entire situation will be a test for Dr. Atkinson. I hope she is up to it.

Fred

December 18th, 2011
1:57 am

Food fights don’t strike me as terrible, the fire was deplorable, but how did the pipe get broken? Schools are built with Sch40 black steel and that isn’t like what you have in your house. Superman could laser cut it with his eyes, but you can’t just snap it with your hands. I’m a pretty damn strong man and I cant bend even 1/2 inch sch40 pipe with my hands much less break it.

Beverly Fraud

December 18th, 2011
2:42 am

What have we learned? That those who lament the lack of discipline in the schools are completely MISGUIDED.

There’s one, and ONLY one solution:

MORE TEACHER TRAINING!

Dr. John Trotter

December 18th, 2011
3:07 am

As we say at MACE, order is the first law of the Universe. The schools are out of order in DeKalb and in other Georgia school systems. Until order and discipline is restored, NOTHING that the educrats try will improve education in our public schools. NOTHING.

As you are fully aware, our mantra at MACE is this: You can’t have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. The teaching conditions are unconscionable. We have flat-earthers trying to make sense of what is going on in the schools. It’s like trying to make water with just two elements of hydrogen. No one wants to admit that the missing element is the oxygen. Likewise, none of the self-motivated educrats and the money-hungry superintendents wants to admit that the missing element in our schools is discipline.

Good night.

Truth in Moderation

December 18th, 2011
3:53 am

How did they happen to have 12 police cars available at the same time? How many other crimes took place while they were away? Rowdy kids should do KP (just like the military) and pay for damages.

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Fedupinfulton

December 18th, 2011
5:58 am

@Dr. John Trotter
Amen!!!! I work in a Fulton County High School. I have been with Fulton for 17 years. Trust me it is ALL DISCIPLINE. Our hands are tied when it comes to students misbehaving. The behavior just keep on escalating to the next level with students because nothing is being done for the first or second infractions.

Bob Leblah

December 18th, 2011
6:40 am

Yes. This is a literal “black” eye.

God Bless the Teacher!

December 18th, 2011
7:25 am

Why did the students specify Monica Black? Did something happen to her during the melee? Has she tried to perform her job properly, albeit to the students’ disliking? I do hope the surveillance cameras show those who started the food fight and that they will be sent to an alternative school (at least) or expelled from all Georgia schools (ideally). I’m not a member of MACE, but its mantra is spot on! After situations like this, instigators should be expelled. I know the FCC protects the use of telecommunications, but in cases like this the system should have every right to view records of any communication within the time frame leading up to the melee. Identified students who participated in the tweets should be sent flying!

Tawny Jones

December 18th, 2011
7:51 am

Public schools are snake pits. Tell us something we don’t know.

Joe Frank

December 18th, 2011
7:54 am

I agree with Dr. Trotter, disipline is the missing element at MANY schools. In an effort to “fluff” grad numbers we allow troulble making young men and women to stay in school amonst our children. They water down and impair an education to those who truly WANT one! It should be simple, it you are going to cause trouble, you can do it somewhere else, not in a public school. This will get there “true” education started. An introduction to our penal system!

Joe Frank

December 18th, 2011
7:56 am

Please excuse the spelling errors! I am suffering from the flu and did not review!

dcb

December 18th, 2011
8:01 am

I’m confused by Dr. Trotter’s assertion about improved teaching conditions being the issue. I certainly agree with him and Fedupinfulton about the discipline issue – and the need for more enforcement. What I think they need to do is offer suggestions for solutions, not simply state a problem. If this is a matter of administration not taking action in support of teachers – suggest what action is needed. And then let the administration state why they don’t or can’t follow that advice if in fact, that is the case. I have a feeling that our litigious society may be part of the problem. And speaking of that, funny how seldom we see suggestions regarding parent responsibility here.

carlosgvv

December 18th, 2011
8:03 am

Maureen, you say this happens at all sorts of schools. This is disingenuous since you do not say which sorts of schools it is most likely to occur in.

Ron

December 18th, 2011
8:08 am

Technology may not be the root cause (e.g., What is motivating some students to behave this way?), but it certainly can facilitate chaos with the masses. We as a society should be asking whether all these new gadgets really help or hinder education.

Ron

December 18th, 2011
8:12 am

@Mahopinion — Technology is only to blame in its ability to facilitate chaos. We as a society need to reevaluate the need for all the gadgets coming through the schools. Students’ motives are the other issue, as mentioned above.

jdawg

December 18th, 2011
8:27 am

Everyone knows full well what the problem is. Don’t hold your breath waiting for parental envolvement. National statistics show that 70% of the 99% of the students at that school come from a one parent home. I love the way we scratch our heads and contort into every conceivable position in order to avoid the real truth. It’s a shame that we can’t talk openly as Americans about how to solve these types of cultural issues.

dekalb teacher

December 18th, 2011
8:28 am

@dcb Please read some of the other postings in previous weeks. Many people, including Dr. Trotter, have been putting the blame on parents as wqell. It is the lack of discpline at home that creates the disruptive students at school. Many parents are afraid of their own children, the child will threaten to call DFCS. Society has become too PC to realize that we have now created little monsters that someday will be running our society.

Zane Smith's Teeth

December 18th, 2011
8:29 am

This does not happen at all or even most public high schools. This type of behavior is actually pretty shocking. It’s a direct result of the student body composistion and poor administrative planning/reaction. Unfortunately, this combustible mix happens a lot in Dekalb/South Fulton (Westlake..) Let’s face it, there are plenty of all black schools where this does not happen. It’s not race, there is something else going on.

James

December 18th, 2011
8:31 am

In my opinion the root cause for something like this is the FACT that the troublemakers KNOW they can do what they want. There will be no repercussions, so let’s tear this place down!

kj

December 18th, 2011
8:31 am

nothing new. check out the movie over the edge.

Concerned

December 18th, 2011
8:43 am

I am a 54 year old adult. My elementary and high school education was in the Dekalb County School System. My father was a career teacher and principal in that system. He retired early from the system around 1980 when the system stripped him (along with the teachers) of the ability to appropriately discipline students. I agree with Dr. Trotter’s assessment. This has been going on for too long. We need to give the educators the ability to discipline students without the threat of firing or law suits.

jdawg

December 18th, 2011
8:47 am

Zane, Zane, Zane. What could possibly be the reason? Let’s spend millions of dollars, and come up with a theory straight from Mars so that we can figure out what that “something else” could be. It just can’t be that obvious. They just had a similar incident at North Forsyth High School earlier in the year. Oh, that’s right, that wasn’t North Forsyth, it was Westlake. What is the common thread? Let’s spend a few more million on finding what that common thread could be. Hilarious and sad all rolled into one.

Dekalb taxpayer

December 18th, 2011
8:57 am

The DeKalb Internet network is governed by a web blocker that supposedly blocks web sites that are not educationally related. Taxpayers pay a lot of money for this web blocker. Since it’s not very responsive to the learning process, teachers are often blocked from sites that are really educational. Twitter is one of the blocked sites. Neither employees nor students are supposed to be tweeting during the school day.

So the question arises about Internet security. If DeKalb’s highly paid we blocker is not working properly, then that is an Information Systems problem, and the personnel in charge of Internet security for DeKalb has some questions to answer. However, if the students were using their cell phones (those are going over AAT, Verizon, etc. connections), then the problem lies with the administration that did institute and enforce ban on cellphone use during the school day.

Banning technology in the school just puts them that much further behind their counterparts in Forsyth, Gwinnett, and Rockdale (avid instructional technology users with very high achievement).

Blaming it on technology would allow the Arabia Mountain and DeKalb administration to sidestep the responsibility to find out the root of the problem and fix it.

Dekalbite

December 18th, 2011
8:57 am

Is the school administration meeting with the teachers as well? The students are in the teachers’ classes 90% of the time. What do the teachers think with respect to:
Grading systems
Disciplinary support
Class sizes
Parental involvement
Timely and relevant assessment feedback
Remedial education
Gifted education
Counseling department
Security Department
After school programs
Clubs and other organizations

All of the above affect classroom management and school behavior. Until the administration involves the personnel who students spend most of their time with, positive changes cannot be made.

joe in tucker

December 18th, 2011
8:59 am

This has nothing to do with the schools, the teachers or the administrators and has everything to do with the kids, the parents and how they are being raised. A child that is allowed to act like a thug or raised in that environment will act like one outside the home and that includes school.

sherlock homes

December 18th, 2011
9:01 am

Surprise???? Typical happenings at a minority school. Where have you been?

Bill Gates

December 18th, 2011
9:05 am

All sorts of shools? HMM has it happened at Centeenial ? Northview? Brookwood? Parkview? Whitewater? Starrs Mill? Of course it hasn’t. The student population will tell you exactly where it is most likely to happen amd often does.

KIM

December 18th, 2011
9:14 am

Berverly Fraud: give me a break!

atlmom

December 18th, 2011
9:27 am

But what happens to the kids who were involved? Are they allowed back in the schools? There isn’t a place anymore where the kids who are disruptive are moved. In APS kids are allowed to control the classroom – to the detriment of the other children, and then no learning takes place. It’s a sad state of our schools, but I don’t think it’s unique to GA.

YourPoliticalAnimal

December 18th, 2011
9:30 am

I just started teaching in DeKalb County and I have never been so insulted in my life. I’ve been called a MF several times, I’ve had students openly talk about their body functions, students constantly roam hallways long after the so-called tardy bell has already rung . . . sad thing about it, there are many good kids where I work but that is constantly overshadowed by the constant thuggery. The inmates are running the asylum, no doubt about it . . . and I’m African American so hear me clearly . . . this problem stems from what is allowed both at home and in the schools, especially when top administrators from the county office tie the hands of school administrators and won’t allow them to adequately discipline trouble makers. When the late bell rings, if a student is not in class, he/she should be swept into a study hall and should earn a zero for any work missed in class. Cuss at a teacher? Zero and out of school suspension. Using electronic device without permission? Zero for all class work that day . . . I guarantee you that this will send a message to both parents and students that such foolishness will not be tolerated . . . but adults at the administrative and teaching levels have to have the gonads to enforce such policies . . . like all children, students know what they can and cannot get away with . . . I just can’t understand why adults act like students have the right to hinder both their and others’ education . . . oh well, back to my two week rehab until I head back to the battle zone . . . Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo . . .

Another Math Teacher

December 18th, 2011
9:36 am

dcb:

“What I think they need to do is offer suggestions for solutions, not simply state a problem. If this is a matter of administration not taking action in support of teachers – suggest what action is needed.”

Fire any administrator for not following official procedure for discipline notices. First time. No exceptions. (I would love for it to be a ‘walk of shame’ in front of the students.) Make all discipline notices electronic with instant copies being sent to a central repository that cannot be deleted by local administration, only added onto.

This would hold several parties responsible. A teacher who writes frivolous referrals would find themselves unable to obtain employment at many systems. A student with many genuine referrals would find they do not get a fresh start every year by hopping systems. Parents would find that their crazy arguments do not work when it can be seen that two other of their children have done the same things before the current one.

The most important factor would be that administrators could not throw away a referral or modify what the teachers has said in a referral. This would eliminate fights being changed into a ‘bump in the hallway.’ This would eliminate telling a teacher to F-Off being changed to ‘accidentally cursed when he got his hand pinched between desks.’ This would eliminate skipping class being thrown away. (Since you don’t want to have low attendance!)

Administrators abuse the choke point of information to hide what is really going on in their schools. They can modify what is seen by others. This leads to institutional abuse at some schools with the public having no real way to know what is really going on.

DanB

December 18th, 2011
10:09 am

Arabia is run by a principal who has never been in the classroom as a teacher and who was largely absent from her last job. She is, however, well connected in the central office. Many of the ap’s at Arabia are sub-par. The woman who set up Arabia for Crawford Lewis was personally brought by him into DCSS after she had run into serious problems in Gwinnett. Crawford and his chosen principal, the first lady, set up Arabia in such a way that a strong New Birth influence was guaranteed.

Why do people still go out of their way to send their children all the way from south DeKalb up to Chamblee, Dunwoody, and Lakeside? Because the corruption is so deep and the effects on the opportunities for their children are so profound.

Atkinson, if she is serious, will have all principals and ap’s submit letters of resignations. She will then carefully check their credentials while running real nationwide searches for good administrators. Once this step has been taken, she can turn her attention to improving the teacher corps.

Personally, I bet she is run out of town on a rail before any of this happens.

Arabia itself is a microcosm of the problems in south DeKalb. Unless the people living there come together and demand change, things are only going to get worse.

Dr. John Trotter

December 18th, 2011
10:38 am

@ KIM: I think that Beverly Fraud was being sarcastic. All the blame is put on the teachers. I think that is the point that Beverly Fraud was trying to make. I am sure that Bev will weigh in on this later.

As a school principal, order has to be your number one focus. Unless your first establish order and unless you maintain order, everything else fails. Aim at order and discipline, and academic achievement will follow. Aim at academic achievement without regard for discipline and order, and academic achievement will not occur (though systematic cheating might!). It is so simple, but the in-school administrators are afraid. It is so sad these days. The superintendents don’t want principals who focus on discipline. I told you guys that it is all about the money.

retro

December 18th, 2011
10:40 am

Maureen, there was a document going around my school with a title something like Reforms in Teaching and their Framework. You should look at it. People do not appreciate how events such as those at Arabia have an impact on politics at all levels. The system is falling apart, and its the poor and people of color who stand the most to lose.

Chris Murphy

December 18th, 2011
10:58 am

I always laugh in the face of “educators” that claim that lawsuits, and the threat thereof are the cause of inept discipline policy and enforcement: Hire better lawyers, then, I say.

Fire the Entire Central Office

December 18th, 2011
10:59 am

This is the big first test for the Atkinson administration, and they punted. It’s an either/or. Either the administration knew everything about it, and chose not to make a public statement,
OR
Walter Woods and the rest of his staff are already celebrating the holiday break.

Very surprised and disappointed that Dr. Atkinson did not make a public statement that behavior like this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. And that parents need to be part of the solution.

Yes, there are issues at every high school in the country, but in DeKalb, Arabia is the newest high school and much, much effort was put into the LEED certification, etc. to make this the shining light of DCSS high schools.

Again, can’t believe Dr. Atkinson isn’t all over this and setting the tone as superintendent. She let Walter Woods be the point person with the media about the band suspensions. She is the public face of DCSS, not Walter Woods or Jeff Dickerson. Where are you, Dr. A?

P.S. The profanity used in the students’ tweets was disgusting and shameful. They have shamed themselves and their families. Disgraceful.

Fire the Entire Central Office

December 18th, 2011
11:00 am

Why

December 18th, 2011
11:06 am

DCSS has double the school police dept. size of Gwinnett, event hough Gwinnett is a bigger system. The DCSS school police dept. has two chiefs with take home cars (?), nine detectives with take home cars, four admin assistants, and almost 200 SRO’s (School Resource Officers), many with take home cars.

This dept. simply does not get the job done. Many SRO’s are related to Board of Ed members and Central Office administrators. Millions are spent on this department, with no return on investment, no oversight, no lcue!

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/10/dcss-school-police-on-job.html

mountain man

December 18th, 2011
11:08 am

Beverly Fraud – “What have we learned? That those who lament the lack of discipline in the schools are completely MISGUIDED.
There’s one, and ONLY one solution:
MORE TEACHER TRAINING!”

I love it! I am LMAO! Maybe if those teachers had been though “residencies” they could have effectively dealt with this rabble.

Why

December 18th, 2011
11:13 am

The lack of discipline at DCSS comes directly from the Central Office and weak principals. Teachers are not allowed to give zero’s as a grade even when a student refuses to do the work. Students can curse at a teacher without consequence. Most of DCSS principals refuse to bring a parent in and directly address their child’s behavior.

The Board of Education allwos and enables the lack of discipline. They are too busy with non-classroom issues such as placing cell phone towers on school campuses with little public notice. Tom Bowen, head of the BOE, may be the weakest and most passive “leader” I’ve ever seen. Discipline? He can’t even lead his own board.

mountain man

December 18th, 2011
11:35 am

Why – I think you hit the nail on the head.

Good Mother

December 18th, 2011
11:52 am

jdawg — why do you point to one parent homes as the cause?

I came from a treacherous TWO parent home. It isn’t the NUMBER of parents in the home it is the QUALITY of the parent or guardian in the home.

Your comment is a thinly-veiled knock on single mothers who are single mothers most often because of a dead beat father…

Do don’t knock the people who actually stick around to raise a child. Your biggotry is showing, jdawg.

Digger

December 18th, 2011
11:52 am

One of these days, and soon, the lid is gonna really blow on one of these mostly African-American schools. A perfect storm of undisciplined, angry, violent prone, low IQ students combined with today’s no consequences, excuse-filled environment is forming and heading this way. Hurricane Truth.