WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE — Washington High School students and parents have expressed concerns about recent developments at the school — including a reported incident where one student physically attacked another inside a boys’ restroom while other students stood by and watched.
This week, Washington Court House City Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey answered questions from the Record-Herald and emailed a letter to high school parents addressing these concerns.
The incident in the high school bathroom occurred Monday, Nov. 28, according to Bailey. A video of the incident — purportedly recorded on a cell phone by another student inside the bathroom at the time — was widely distributed on social media and showed a student striking another student from behind and then throwing the student to the floor.
The incident “stemmed from a personal matter between the two (meaning that this was not a random act),” Bailey wrote in an email to the Record-Herald. “There were several students in the restroom who did not act to stop the incident and some of them were recording the incident. All students in the matter were disciplined in accordance with our policy, our rules, and within the letter of the law.”
When asked if authorities were involved in investigating the incident, Bailey wrote, “We did not involve the authorities, however, I believe that one of the families pressed charges against the student (we do not get involved in that process if one family chooses to do that).”
In his letter to parents, Bailey addressed the incident further.
“There were many layers to this altercation that made us take a step back and ask, ‘Is this the culture that we want at Washington High School?’ This one incident leads to many questions: Is the culture conducive to learning? Is discipline being handled consistently, fairly, and equitably? Here is what I know. The school district is here to educate young people. Period! Unless we have an environment that is orderly, we cannot do this to the best of our ability.”
To address these disciplinary and culture issues, Bailey said Jennifer Miller, the assistant principal at WHS, and Louis Reid, the newly-appointed dean of students, are “working hard to lay a foundation of order and discipline. They are fully supported by the administrative team in making sure that we are able to move the High School forward in a productive and exciting way. Increased discipline will also lead to a safer school environment.”
When asked about the status of high school principal Tracy Rose, Bailey said Rose took a medical leave of absence several weeks ago. After his leave was in effect, Rose submitted a letter of resignation effective at the end of his contract — July 31, 2023 — and he will remain on leave until that time.
“Since we are in the middle of a year, we knew that we would not get the best pool of candidates for the position until the spring for an August 1 start date,” Bailey told the Record-Herald. “Our new assistant superintendent (Tim Sies) and myself are at the high school daily to help Ms. Miller with the daily operations and to start planning for the future. We also posted a position of Dean of Students. After that interview process, Louis Reid was hired to take that position until the end of this school year.”
The dean of students position is not an administrative position and deals exclusively with student relationship building and discipline, according to Bailey.
In his letter to parents, Bailey wrote: “(Rose) asked that this leave be put in place quietly to lessen the attention that it would bring to him and his family, which I respected and tried to adhere to the best of my ability. I personally want to thank him for his years of service and would like to wish him the best in all his future endeavors. His legacy will impact WHS for years to come.”
The Record-Herald also asked Bailey about another incident at the high school that police responded to Friday morning.
“Because of the increased rules at Washington High School, one of our students posted a rather inflammatory post against the school and in particular Ms. Miller and Mr. Reid,” Bailey wrote in an email. “As this post circulated another student agreed by making a statement that indicated possible retaliation against the school. It was very vague, however, when it came to our attention, (the student) was searched and questioned extensively. WCH Police were at Washington HS in the morning based upon my request in case a large group of students protested our attempt at having increased discipline for a safer environment. By chance, this other situation came to light with the second post.”
As soon as he was made aware of the second post, Bailey said he contacted all parents to inform them there was an investigation and that their children were safe.
“I also let parents know that if they have credible knowledge of any threat, they need to call the school or police department immediately,” he wrote.
Reach Record-Herald Editor Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352.