School Security-Walkout
Posted on 4/20/2006 4:08:30 PM

DECATUR, Ark. (AP) - The removal of a police officer from the campus of Decatur Schools, because the police chief said the administration had created a hostile environment for her, prompted a walkout by more than 40 students Wednesday. Students said they don't feel safe without a police officer on the campus, and want Superintendent Mike Parrish to explain why Officer Jeannie Yates is no longer assigned to the school. "We want answers and we want protection," said Heather Jandebeur, 17.
Others chanted, "United we stand, in Jeannie we trust" and "Bring Jeannie back." In recent weeks, a middle school student was charged with terroristic threatening, accused of threatening a school shooting. A parent who was present for Wednesday's walkout complained that parents weren't notified about the threat.
Students also said they believed Yates' presence could have prevented a fight that broke out Tuesday, and cited a previous fight that some said was racially motivated.
Yates began her duties at the campus in October, after the Decatur School Board worked out an agreement with the police department. But Police Chief Terry Luker pulled Yates from the schools April 13. Luker said he made the decision because of a lack of support from Parrish, who the chief said had created a hostile work environment for Yates. Cassie Steckman, 17, one of four students who met Wednesday with Parrish, said discussion in that meeting was calm, but she still has questions that the superintendent did not answer.
The students eventually returned to class, according to James Garner, the interim high school principal. Mike Wilkins, president of the Decatur School Board, said he is confident the issue will be resolved. He described the matter as "just a misunderstanding that's kind of gotten out of hand." Wilkins said it's important to the board to have an officer at the schools. He said he had talked with Luker and believes all parties will work through the situation. (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)