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Backlash follows district reaction to school fights

Frustrations among Hays CISD parents boiled over last week after many claimed the district balked in communicating events surrounding multiple fights at Lehman High.

District officials maintained Hays CISD was following its protocol regarding such incidents, but felt there could be room for future improvement. 

The drama came about because of a series of events that took place Sept. 25 and 26 at Lehman High. According to district officials, two male students engaged in a fight Sept. 25, which allegedly was over a love interest.

Tension from the first fight continued into Sept. 26, when friends of the first two combatants engaged in two to three fights over a short period of time late in the morning.

Tim Savoy, Hays CISD public information officer, said Student Resource Officers (SROs) from other campuses were called into assist following the fights.

SROs enacted a hold-in-place order to avoid fights between class changes, while also pulling out students who may have been involved in the incident, Savoy said.

A hold-in-place order entails the school turning off its bell system and keeping students in their classrooms.

Roughly six to eight students were involved in the fights and all have been identified, Savoy said. It is unknown what discipline the students could face.

District officials were made aware of a Twitter account called “Hays versus Lehman,” which they believe was created Wednesday.

The account showed videos of students at Hays and Lehman high schools fighting. Savoy said he doesn’t believe students from different campuses were fighting each other.

“We think it’s probably a competition perhaps to see which school could have the best fight video,” Savoy said.

But many parents took to the Hays Free Press Facebook page to express concern over a lack of notification from Hays CISD immediately following the event. Hays CISD sent a letter to parents regarding the fights at 6 p.m. Sept. 26, which was four hours after they had taken place.

Others who commented cited rumors circulating on social media regarding the discovery of a firearm or weapon by law enforcement. Savoy said no guns or weapons were found as a result of the district’s investigation.

Savoy said he understood much of the concern from parents, primarily through the rumors that were circulating online.

However, he said the district followed its protocol, in which immediate parent alerts are only given in the event of a lockout or lockdown situation.

Savoy said the first priority for campus administration in an emergency is to handle the event first, which is then followed by communication.

While every situation is different, the focus is to give parents the entire picture of what is going on.

“It’s worse if you say something is going on, but not tell parents what it is, which could cause a panic,” Savoy said.

An emailed response also isn’t the fastest way of disseminating information, Savoy said. He estimated emailed responses can take up to 15 to 30 minutes in order to cycle through all of the appropriate people. It may take even longer to translate the message into Spanish.

Savoy said the district often passes messages through to other mediums, such as the media, when they aim to notify the public of a situation, which he said is the fastest way to get information out. The next fastest is posting information on the district’s social media accounts.

“If parents read a story in the newspaper, and they have district officials quoted in there, we want them to count that too as official notification,” Savoy said.

But Savoy said the district could also do better on getting a message out sooner. He said he was not aware of the social media rumors until well after the event had taken place. 

“It’s always a learning experience,” Savoy said. “We hope we never have an emergency situation where we have to use immediate parent alerts. If we’re going to make mistakes and improvements, I’d rather learn in this situation than in an actual emergency that’s occurring.”

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