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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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