Just two days after fights broke out at Zephyrhills High School where 12 students were arrested, school officials are looking into ways to learn from the incident and what the next steps are to help keep this from happening again.
ZHS Principal Dr. Christina Stanley said the incident may have put the school in a bad light, but the behavior of the students involved in the fights do not reflect the Bulldog Pride in the other 99 percent of the students.
“I had several families reach out and tell me that this event is not representative of who ZHS actually is,” said Stanley, who was knocked to the ground as she tried to break up a fight. “The students’ behavior is not what Zephyrhills High School is about and not what this community is all about and we want to get the focus back on education and help our kids get ready for their future.”
Stanley said she has received several emails of support, while also receiving others saying there is work to be done.
“We definitely learned that we need to work with our students on de-escalation skills, how to talk to somebody when we’re upset and what we do instead of going to fighting first,” Stanley said.
Stanley noted that there are many options the school is looking at to help students and parents such as bringing in guest speakers, looking at different ways to reach students with peer mentorship groups and teaching students to talk out frustrations.
Stanley confirmed attendance was down at the school the day following the incident due to parents keeping their kids home for safety reasons.
“Many people reached out and said they were keeping their kids home and here’s why,” Stanley said. “They said they’ll be back when things calm down a bit and things are back on track. At the end of the day they have to do the best job for their student and let everything settle here.”
This incident will have more than students being saddled with detention of in-school suspensions, according to Stanley. There will be consequences for their actions decided by the school district. The ZHS admin staff can make recommendations, but the final discipline comes from the district.
“The kids that were involved with this have school consequences and are not currently on campus and we are moving forward with progressive discipline which may include consequences that are far reaching and could potentially not allow them back at ZHS,” Stanley said. “Then there’s whole law enforcement side,” Stanley said. “There are charges pending.”
For the remaining 1,600 students at ZHS, Stanley will continue praise them with every breath she has.
“We have great kids and fantastic staff and I want is to get back to the world class opportunities that we’re trying to get them ready for.”