Knocking out violence, drug use: School violence prevention program at Ardmore High School aims to enhance education for students, staff

Michael Smith

Ardmore High School students involved in violence or drug use on campus can now face municipal fines. The Ardmore City Schools Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved the school violence prevention program which implements citations for violating three types of prohibited behavior. Physical violence, verbal abuse and possession of controlled substances are now cause for a citation issued by Ardmore police.

According to Ardmore High School Principal James Meece, this is not the first time students have faced this type of punishment for fighting at school.

“I had a program during the 90s where we fined them,” said Meece “Except we fined them $400 for fights,” he said. At a time when gang violence was an issue, Meece said he used punitive measures to drastically reduce the number of fights.

“Where we had three or four fights per week, after that we had three fights period. After we made examples of three, everybody else said ‘we need to go somewhere else to do this.’”

According to a document provided by the school, a student involved in a fight that is not out of self-defense could be fined for disturbing the peace. Ardmore municipal code states someone cited for disturbing the peace could face up to a $200 fine plus court costs or up to 30 days in jail.

While the program mainly targets violence, it will also address verbal abuse of school personnel. If a student curses at school personnel or otherwise interferes with the school process, a student will receive a single warning. According to the document, a subsequent violation will warrant a municipal citation for public nuisance. Municipal code offers a wide definition of public nuisance, including an act that “endangers the peace, health, safety, comfort or repose of others.”

A citation for that violation could also cost up to $200 plus court costs, according to municipal code.

The program approved by the board will initially be rolled out at Ardmore High School. Superintendent Kim Holland told board members that the pilot program, if effective, may be expanded to include Ardmore Middle School in the future.

Meece said that he has been given support to enforce the city codes on campus by Municipal Court Judge Julie Austin and Ardmore Police Capt. Paul White.

“You have to protect the children who are there to go to school and learn, and you protect your teaching staff,” Meece said. “Parents should be able to expect their children to go to school and be safe.”

The program will also target drug use on campus, specifically marijuana. Students found in possession of a controlled substance could face steep fines of more than $400, according to the document provided by school officials, and over $500 if the substance contains THC, the chemical found in marijuana that causes a high.

Students facing fines for using or possessing controlled substances on campus is nothing new. Late last month, Dickson Public Schools implemented a program that imposes fines on students who are caught with electronic cigarettes on campus. Meece said fines issued to students who have been caught with e-cigarettes has been effective at reducing the instances.

“We started doing ours last spring. I had like 20 to 30 of them at that time,” Meece said, referring to students with e-cigarettes on campus. “I think I’ve had one, maybe two, this year.”

While the school is cracking down on violence, abuse, and drug use on campus, Meece insists that he has a well-behaved student body. “I’ve got good kids, but you’ve always got the few that got to push the edges,” he said.