Wilson ‘recenters’ in response to fights, tardiness

Joanna Chait, Benjy Chait, and Mailey Rash

Based on observations from Term 1, administrators have begun implementing new policies to address a recent increase in fights and loitering in the hallway during class time.

On October 27-29, administrators visited every second-period class to deliver a presentation called “Re-centering Wilson,” where they announced new policies and expectations. 

In late September, the administration started to collect data in preparation for the meetings. “We noticed two big issues,” assistant principal Steven Miller said. “One was the fighting. And [the second] was students being in the halls when they’re not supposed to be.”

Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman believes the increase in fighting is a result of the return to in-person school in the midst of a pandemic, as it is a District-wide trend.

 “In the old Wilson, there were one or two fights a month, [this year] we were getting three or four fights a week,” he said. 

Administrators informed students of the consequences of this behavior. According to Bargeman, students can be suspended, transferred, and even arrested for fighting, depending on the severity of [the] injury. “We had to make sure that students understood that people can get seriously hurt in these fights,” he continued.

The administration is also taking a communicative approach to address the fighting; according to Miller and Bargeman, Wilson promotes mediation between peers as well as restorative justice to solve issues and hopefully halt the possibility of a fight. 

Wilson has a Restorative Justice Coordinator “[who] gets students together to sort of talk through any problems or issues that they have with each other,” Bargeman said

Following the “re-centering Wilson” presentations, “we’ve been very successful and mitigating fights, and students have been a big part of that,” Miller said, adding that students have mediated conflicts between their friends and alerted adults of conflicts.

Administrators also identified an increase in students in the halls during class time. The Wilson administration is planning to implement a new electronic hall pass system paired with hall sweeps. According to Miller, this will allow the administration to monitor students in the halls.

Midway through the first advisory, the administration also noticed that there were “people trying to sneak out of the building [through] various exits,” Bargeman said. In response, security personnel and non-teacher staff have shifted to cover the exits.

Senior Chris O’Brien feels the hall sweeps are inordinate. “I feel like [the administration] is criminalizing lateness. Locking classroom doors, searching the halls, and waiting outside bathrooms for students is draconian and excessive in my opinion,” adding that he feels it is “not the environment [the administration] should be creating in a school.” 

Many other students just see the hall sweeps as an inconvenience.

“I get that there’s an issue with people being late but I feel like a hall sweep takes way more time,” junior Sanai Anderson said. Sophomore Brogan Bukowski shares a similar sentiment: “the passes aren’t worth it in my opinion.” 

Senior Yeshe Mulugeta agrees that hall sweeps are a waste of time, but feels more strongly about the lack of independence communicated through hall passes. “I feel like administration should be able to trust us, unfortunately, they don’t,” she said.

 Seniors Dakota Joi Inniss, Nisa Thompson, and Cheryll Packard-Davis are planning to lead a panel discussion followed by a workshop in late January, aimed to help underclassmen resolve issues around fighting and build community.

“We would talk to them and you know, explain why fighting is not good,” Innis said. She expressed the importance of community. In her panel, Innis hopes to communicate that “Wilson should be like a big, family, type thing.”

Inniss received help from eleventh-grade social worker Kimberly Wilson, who provided advice on social-emotional support for students. Other staff members, including The Restorative Justice Coordinator and Bargeman aided in planning the event.

“Student behavior and issues in the hallway are always topics of conversation,” School Chapter Advisory Committee (SCAC) member and social studies teacher Michele Bollinger said. 

The SCAC—consisting of Wilson teachers who are members of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU)—meets to discuss school policies to advise the administration.

 “Right now is the time to be stepping up our efforts to build community, not reinforcing or cracking down,” Bollinger said.

Although she said that the administration was really understanding of students in “provid[ing] resources for academic and social support,” Bollinger believes that the best approach to solving these issues is community-building rather than implementing punitive measures.

 However, science teacher Amanda Dezenzo is in favor of the new procedures. “I love the policies. I wish they started from day one, I think it would be easier for students to get accustomed to, and it would be easier for administrators and teachers alike to enforce [them],” she said

 Like Bollinger, SCAC member and department chair and health and PE teacher LeJanika Green believes that Wilson should take a community-centered approach to resolve the increase in fighting.

 “How do we [make] students a part of the conversation?” Green said, adding that Wilson should also involve the “community [which includes] administration, teachers, students, and parents.” 

Dezenzo is unsure of the best solution to the increase in fighting. ” I honestly don’t know what should be done, [but] I know something has to be done, “ she said, adding that, “I really respect the administration for trying. I’m willing to do what they need [me] to.” •