Seminole school leaders discuss plan to tackle increase in violent fights at Markham Woods Middle School

School board held nearly two hour long closed session on Friday

SANFORD, Fla. – The Seminole County School Board held a nearly two-hour closed-door session on Friday to discuss school safety and security following a reported increase of fights at Markham Woods Middle School.

News 6 was not allowed inside the meeting.

School Board Chair Amy Pennock said she couldn’t share many details about what was discussed during the meeting, but she provided some information on the district’s plan to tackle the increase in fights on campus.

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“We learned a lot about some of the reactions that are happening at Markham Woods,” Pennock said.

Earlier this week, News 6 shared videos provided by parents that show fights at Markham Woods Middle School. Parents said the fights are happening more frequently.

According to the school district, there were three fights at Markham Woods Middle School during the 2019-2020 school year. The district reports there were 31 fights the following year. As of Nov. 5, 2021, the district said there were 25 fights so far.

“It just seems that after this pandemic it’s been a little bit heightened and we hope to get on a better path forward,” Pennock said.

Pennock said that path includes increasing intervention services on campus, bringing on a new dean, as well as hiring a dedicated behavioral intervention specialist.

“This person will focus on adjusting behaviors, looking at ways to educate teachers on how to react and address behavioral issues, as well as working with the kids on campus to ensure that we’re getting them on the right path to avoid some of the issues we’ve seen,” she said.

Pennock said the district will also retrain administrators on the restorative practice program, which is an exercise to help students better understand each other.

“Helps kids understand the consequences to their actions, aggressive actions and how it made the other person feel. When they understand there’s an emotional attachment to a reaction or consequence that sometimes diffuses the aggression,” she said.

Pennock adds she believes social media and access to cellphones play a role in the fights, so the district is planning to work with law enforcement to teach students better practices.

“I think teaching them the smart way to use them is something that we need to focus on and it was something that we discussed doing a partnership with the sheriff to do smart awareness, how to best use a smartphone and not abuse it,” she said.

Pennock said the district hopes to fill the behavioral intervention specialist position as soon as possible and plans to retrain administrators sometime after the holidays.

About the Author:

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!