Parents and McCracken Middle School officials got together last night to figure out how to keep kids safe at school. Their main concern is that, despite what a letter from the school says, last week's knife fight was not an isolated incident and they want something done and done fast.
They packed the cafeteria at the Bluffton school, hoping for answers to tough questions. But a lot of parents came away feeling like the school sugar-coated what happened when officials sent a letter home with students the same afternoon of the fight.
"'The situation's isolated and under control,'" parent James Hale read in the letter. "'We can assure the community that the school is safe and there's no reason for concern about your child.' That seems to me to be a monumental effort to be able to accomplish that in three hours."
Hale says it doesn't seem isolated, and the school needs a lot more attention. Many parents are concerned it won't get that attention without the school board's help.
"Not having the board of education here was a very sad response," said parent Robin McDonnell. "And the city council, none of them being here was sad as well. I think it should have taken precedent over a lot of other things."
Some parents say they know it's a touchy subject, but for the safety of the students, it might be time to look at metal detectors on a regular basis.
"I heard one of the parents say they'd hate for their child to have to walk through a metal detector," said one attendee. "Well I think I would like for my child to walk through one."
"Since 9/11, everybody goes through at the airport," noted McDonnell. "It's inconvenient, it stinks, but if it saves lives, who cares?"
The school does have a wand, but they only use it occasionally, like this morning. "We had to pick up five or six cigarette lighters out back that they ditched before they came in," said Richard Hitch, the school's principal.
Right now the school has no plans for permanent metal detectors.
Most parents say they were happy with how school employees handled last week's attack once it started, but they're still concerned about preventing future incidents.
We tried to talk with Principal Hitch after the meeting, but he refused.