Watch Now: Amherst school officials address student assaults at high school | Latest Headlines


The fallout from two violent incidents previous month involving several pupils at Amherst County Higher College was tackled publicly in the course of the Amherst County Faculty Board’s April 7 assembly.

William Wells, assistant superintendent of Amherst County Public Colleges, reported two assaults took location at the superior university on March 25, and learners who witnessed them recorded them and posted videos on social media. Students involved in the assaults faced disciplinary motion by the college division, and the Amherst County Sheriff’s Place of work declared on its formal Facebook webpage the investigation led to four male juveniles facing criminal prices.

Two 14-year-olds and two 16-year-olds, none of whom have been named by law enforcement for the reason that of their ages, have each individual been charged with assault and battery as effectively as abduction, in accordance to the sheriff’s business. One of the 14-year-olds associated faces two counts of assault.

University officials also did not name the college students and Wells reported far more specifics would be provided in a closed session. Commonly, unique willpower issues are not often tackled in the open during school board conferences but the March 25 incidents rose to a degree that garnered substantially focus and led to a community deal with from the division, as effectively as a call to local community motion to reduce long run equivalent incidents.

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“Our educational institutions are microcosms of the larger local community,” Wells mentioned. “Issues in our community will find their approaches into our faculties. When there is illegal action in our group, there is a chance some of that action will manifest by itself in our faculties.”

He referenced local community fears of gang activity and a definition of a gang by the federal departments of justice and homeland protection as “an association of a few or extra individuals whose associates collectively detect on their own by adopting a team identification whose purpose is in section to have interaction in legal activity, which works by using violence or intimidation to even further its prison aims.”

“During our investigation we have determined that a person of the assaults at the large university on March 25 would meet the definition specific above,” Wells instructed the board. “We have also decided that some people today concerned in these incidents do recognize with a acknowledged gang that operates in Amherst County and in Lynchburg. Added students have said they are not members of the gang but do associate with those associates though at university and in the group.”

Some pupils have posted shots and online video of on their own on social media putting on gang-connected outfits and making use of acknowledged gang indicators, Wells explained.

“The incidents at the superior university did not require distinctive teams or gangs confronting each individual other. It was a person group of college students assaulting an personal scholar because of in portion to statements produced about a person of the members by social media by that university student,” Wells mentioned. “This challenge is more than just a school problem. It is a local community situation. We have the pupils from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The relaxation of the working day they are with mothers and fathers and guardians. We will acquire duty for what occurs in just our educational facilities, but we require our family members and our group users to do their portion and get obligation for what normally takes location when the learners leave our services.”

Some mom and dad really don’t understand their learners are involved in these types of behavior until eventually an incident, these as the assaults at the substantial school, takes place, Wells said.

“I urge our moms and dads to appear at students’ social media accounts and have conversations about appropriate habits,” Wells claimed.

In a March 29 news release, Amherst County Sheriff E.W. Viar requested learners to straight away report these types of incidents to school personnel or a school resource officer and advised moms and dads to reinforce to their children that filming these kinds of incidents and posting them on the web could have detrimental repercussions for them as properly.

“Incidents like this are taken severely by the Amherst County Sheriff’s Place of work and our officers will carry on to do what is required to be certain safety in our faculties,” the launch stated.

Wells mentioned in the 2018-19 faculty calendar year, 45 students were engaged in fights and 6 in assaults at ACHS, conveying a combat is viewed as an incident the place both of those are engaged and an assault is an attack on a different. In 2019-20, there were being 27 college students engaged in fights and two in assaults at ACHS, a 12 months where in-man or woman instruction closed in mid-March since of the COVID-19 pandemic. This yr, 11 college students have engaged in fights and six have been concerned in assaults at ACHS, he claimed.

Given that the activities of March 25, higher university directors have emphasized a need for academics to action up their existence in the halls and in monitoring bathrooms, Wells claimed.

Abby Thompson, the board’s chair, claimed these action has no location in the schools or the local community.

“We occur to college to study and we need to do so in a safe and sound and caring ecosystem. And we just want to guarantee you that is our 1st priority,” Thompson stated to the community, later introducing: “Our mothers and fathers will need to be supporting us placing expectations for their small children when they are in school. We will not tolerate it. We require to be on the same website page.”

“There is a lot the local community can do to help with this issue,” Vice Chair Chris Terry stated. “There is a responsibility that begins in the home.”

Board member Ginger Burg claimed the board and division will do what ever it usually takes to make sure each child every working day feels safe and sound in the educational institutions.

“It’s a very concerning subject matter, violence in universities,” said board member Eric Orasi. “We’re not likely to be ready to get earlier this on our personal. We need community help we need the parents’ involvement. It’s going to get most people to make it come about.”


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Natasha M. McKnight

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