Lowering the Boom

Dekaney High School's motto is "Whatever It Takes." So far, district administrators haven't figured out quite what that needs to be.

Lowering the Boom

The audio alone sounds like a prison riot.

On January 27, a fight between students broke out during the lunch hour at Andy Dekaney High School, located near Farm to Market Road 1960 and Interstate 45. Cell-phone video shows complete mayhem as more than 30 teenagers unleashed haymakers at any head, nose or jaw within striking range. At one point, there was so much yelling and screaming that the cell phone's microphone turned the unsettling cacophony into static.

Later that day, Spring Independent School District officials released a statement to the media: The fight, they insisted, occurred between four students.

Dekaney High School students, who haven't had school IDs all year, say that some fights have sent kids into seizures or to the hospital.
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Dekaney High School students, who haven't had school IDs all year, say that some fights have sent kids into seizures or to the hospital.
Spring Independent School District officials claim that the January 27 riot occurred between four students. A Dekaney freshman who witnessed the bloody free-for-all says that the district isn't telling the truth.
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Spring Independent School District officials claim that the January 27 riot occurred between four students. A Dekaney freshman who witnessed the bloody free-for-all says that the district isn't telling the truth.

"It wasn't just four people. There were a lot more. I saw others getting jumped. One kid, after the fight, was bleeding from his ear and into his mouth," says a Dekaney High freshman we'll call Felipe. Houston Press has changed the names of every parent, student and teacher who was interviewed for this story because they say they fear retaliation by the school.

This wasn't the first time that Dekaney's student body had been besieged by violence. On May 5, weeks before the close of the 2010-2011 school year, two kids were sent to the hospital after an all-out throw-down in the hallways.

Leslie, a Wildcat senior who has attended Dekaney all four years, says that the school, which opened in 2007 to help deal with the overpopulated Westfield High, has always been rough.

However, until this year, Leslie had never seen such chaos. Parents say it's happening because the kids, who graduated from middle schools such as Bammel and Robertson, run the asylum. (According to the Texas Education Agency, 73.6 percent of the students come from economically disadvantaged families. The ethnic breakdown of Dekaney's 2,799 student body, according to a 2010-2011 TEA report, is 61.6 percent African American, 32.9 percent Hispanic, 2.9 percent Asian and 1.7 white.)

When Leslie began the 2011 fall quarter, some classes didn't have teachers — not even substitutes — for more than a month. "They still might not have teachers," says Leslie. "Teachers would just quit. I had a journalism class and she couldn't handle her class. She left without saying anything." According to Felipe, teachers who bother to show up sometimes flee their classrooms when a fight starts.

Some parents and students say that it's not just violence and absentee staff that's turning Dekaney into a hole.

Leslie and Felipe have seen fellow students on the second floor toss liquid bleach onto kids on the first, just for the heck of it. Whenever one Dekaney mother picks up her son from school, she sees some of the girls wearing "two-inch skirts and six-inch heels." And in what parents call a complete lack of institutional control, not one kid has had a student ID all year.

Since the January riot, Dekaney has attempted to seize control by clamping down on kids who are late to class. During its daily "tardy sweep," administrators and staff round up students who have been locked out of the classroom and send them to the gymnasium, where they're forced to sit, sans lunch, until the final bell.

Karen Garrison, director of public relations and communications at Spring ISD, says that there haven't been any violent episodes since the riot. Garrison — citing our "negative" Hair Balls blog about Dekaney's tardy sweep on February 1 — refused to answer any further questions and denied our requests to interview Dekaney and Spring ISD personnel.

A majority of students who spoke with the Press say that fights still happen and that the campus remains a tinderbox. One freshman, for instance, is too traumatized to ask for a hall pass to go to the bathroom, saying bullies remain in the hallway at all hours of the school day.

Overall, concerned parents say that it's too late for the school, whose motto is "Whatever It Takes," to try and enforce the rules. Instead, they think that Dekaney — which has put a freeze on all transfers out of the school — needs to be shut down and the entire staff replaced.

"Nothing has ever worked," says a parent whose son graduated from Dekaney two years ago. "There were plenty of times I couldn't get into that parking lot because the cops had it blocked off and there were helicopters flying above. It was crazy."

Aside from one Dekaney teacher who responded with a "thanks, but no thanks," the Press's numerous attempts to speak with current Dekaney staff members fell on deaf ears. The Press did get in touch with a former Dekaney educator, who confirmed that the culture was out of control during his tenure.

"It's seriously dangerous over there," says the teacher. "A lot of students would cuss out other teachers. I think the real problem is that parents are letting their kids do whatever they want when they're not at school. There's no accountability."

Because transferring isn't an option, some families have either moved or are making plans to ditch the surrounding area, which they say has been inundated with burglaries and home invasions. "It's going to get worse before it gets better," says a parent whose child is supposed to attend Dekaney in the fall, "and I'm not going to stick around to see what that looks like."
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25 comments
Blamegirl Says
Blamegirl Says

I was a teacher there and laid off last year due to budget cuts. But the school could be under better control for sure. Check out this, it happened there, I believe it was to the Journalism teacher. But don't quote me.

http://www.blamegirl.com/2011/...

SeniorAtDekaney
SeniorAtDekaney

How about you enroll. Then tell us how bad it is. Thanks.

Spring teacher
Spring teacher

The teacher's fault?? Wow...what a lack of accountability for their poor parenting. Try teaching your children the concept of working and earning something you want instead of stealing it from other people. Quit making excuses for your children and start raising them and disciplining them at HOME. Then, when they come to school, they won't act like they own the place.

Albatross
Albatross

I used to work there and unfortunately, I don't beleive this article to be exaggerated at all. There were so many times I personally apprehended kids in the bathrooms having sex or smoking pot, and nothing was done about it. Even the campus cops seemed unexperienced and ill equiped to handle the extreme behaviors. If a teacher got assaulted, we were just told that it would be the student's word against our own and that it wasn't worth pursuing. So, eventually, the teachers just kind of hid out in their rooms with the doors locked. We just wanted to get throught the day.

FenceSitter
FenceSitter

Perhaps if the district had a clear, concise discipline policy, it might be easier to "control" the children. But you can't discipline kids anymore without lawsuits, and you can't teach without discipline. If you kick the "bad" kids out, the district loses funding. Education is quickly falling under the grasp of corporate America, and we've seen how that plays out. Pointing the blame at teachers, or even the administration, is a beautiful smokescreen to cover where the true problems lie. I'm not saying that teachers and admin don't play a part, but they're only a fraction of the overall issue.

Anse
Anse

Competitive sports are the one thing keeping some of those kids out of trouble. A kid can learn things in team sports that he cannot learn in a classroom. And I say that as a former public school teacher.

reden_smith
reden_smith

@toeveryonemy neighbor's mother brought home $19967 past month. she been working on the internet and bought a $485700 home. All she did was get blessed and work up the instructions revealed on this web site ..MakeCash10.com||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

kuewa
kuewa

Parents need to be held responsible for the actions of their children, in and out of school. Although many of the teachers at Dekaney may be unprepared for what they are encountering, their primary job is to teach, not to compensate for bad parenting and police unruly children. Everyone knows who the perpetrators are; they and their parents should be held criminally responsible for assault and initmidiation. Given the current situation, armed security should be employed to insure the safety of the children until order is restored.

neighbor
neighbor

I live next to school and I know many neighbors that dont want to send their children to the school uncluding mine in middle school now. Teenagers have been caught breaking in into our homes during the day. Street fights in our subdivision happen regularly and you call school administration to let them know. They said once outside school property they can not do anything. The solution for the school is either hire sherriff or constable deputies to take over security, make students wear uniforms and dont back down discipline policies enacted now.

Parent
Parent

Spring ISD created this mess by dumping over 90% of the apt complexes in the area, many that are for economically disadvantaged, into one school. I have 2 kids who attend the school. Although the incidents that occurred are alarming and disturbing, your article is full of extreme exaggerations. I agree it starts at home. A lot of kids at Dekaney do receive an education and do what they need to do. My daughter is graduating with honors and both my son and daughter are involved with sports. There has to be more parent involvement for things to change.

Bricktop
Bricktop

Perhaps the answer to the problem is that we open trade schools for anyone who doesn't want to learn in a purely academic environment, and anyone who doesn't want to stay in school or learn a trade can go into some kind of "Supermax" type school with armed guards in every classroom enforcing the rules. We need to take responsiblity for the kind of society we are creating, and require responsibility from those unable to achieve it on their own.

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

Is this another example of the stupidity of the TX ISD system? A set of administrators unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the changing demographic in their 'hood? What a mess; it is fiscally and morally inefficient.

roadgeek
roadgeek

Black-Run America. I know I'm excited.

Ribalding
Ribalding

Schools like this remind me why I'm pro choice.

Meanwhile, people are demonizing the teachers. Yeah. That makes sense.

Because those teachers gave birth to the little criminals, right?

Anonymous Dhs Teacher
Anonymous Dhs Teacher

(cont.) but blaming teachers at the school (especially the ones that have stuck it out) for what has gone on is wrong. The teachers at Dekaney are some of the most creative and innovative teachers you can find. It's not fair to ask a high school student what they think of their teachers. 90% would say something bad in any school. Education does take place at our school despite the difficulties we face. It won't be perfect. We deal with students that have never been taught to respect adults and who don't have support at home. We have to figure out how to reach all of our students. My co-workers and I give our all to our students. Shame on you for piling the "bad teacher" label on an already distressed group of professionals.

Anonymous Dhs Teacher
Anonymous Dhs Teacher

(cont.) on time. The school was not under control at the begining of the year and many of the controls that have been implemented should have been in place at the begining of the year. Halls are much clearer during the day and the number of incidents have decreased dramatically. Students are free to transfer. We get a list everyday of students that have withdrawn and enrolled. It has been a difficult year(cont.)

Harry_Bennett
Harry_Bennett

the problem with a free education is that it has become worthless

Anonymous Dhs Teacher
Anonymous Dhs Teacher

I am a teacher at Dekaney. I don't think this is a particularly fair or updated report of what is going on at the school. We have had problems at the school but our administration has responded. Children are not put in a gym without lunch if they are tardy. We have switched to a zero tolerance tardy policy, and the first day of implementation and we just had no where to put all of the students that would not go to class on (continued)

Paradigm
Paradigm

You are right Spring Teacher. My question is where is Dr. Draper and the school board when all this is going on. My guess is that they are planning their next trip to Colorado or Florida!!!!!!

Albatross
Albatross

Competitive sports DON'T keep the kids out of trouble. If anything, they are protected from discipline and failing because of their athletic talent. They fill their heads with big ideas on being a professional athlete while they can't even pass the TAKS test (now STAAR). And I say this as a current teacher.

Spring teacher
Spring teacher

Great point Kuewa! We are there to teach, not babysit. These kids need to be PARENTED!! These parents are not raising their children. To be honest...a lot of these kids are probably acting like their parents. Quit playing the blame game and take a much needed look in the mirror.

Shannonlmiranda
Shannonlmiranda

the school has Spring ISD cops on site. they act buddy buddy with the kids, the kids there have no fear of what would happen to them when they act up. both of my step-children have gone to DeKaney, my next kits to go there its in sixth grade now. I definitely intend on moving before it is time for him to attend. This school is definitely out of control.

Bricktop
Bricktop

Not so much black-run as poor and ignorant run.

Blamegirl Says
Blamegirl Says

Exactly. SMDH They will blow all the money on Peak & Kagan and then lay off teachers and leave rooms empty.

 
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