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Leader staff writer
Student safety turned out to be the main concern voiced at a public forum Sunday afternoon on the merits of Jacksonville’s gender-specific middle schools. About 50 people attended the two-hour meeting hosted by the Jacksonville NAACP at the Jacksonville Boys Middle School.
No one attending disputed gains in test scores since the sex-segregated schools opened in fall 2005. More on people’s minds were concerns about bullying and inadequate adult supervision in the halls, on the playgrounds, and in the cafeteria at both the boys and girls middle schools.
After the meeting, Jacksonville NAACP chapter president Ivory Tillman said that the NAACP would decide at its July 13 general meeting what its formal position would be. A likely next step for the NAACP would be asking the school district for security monitors to control disruptive and sometimes violent behavior that threatens safety of students at the middle schools.
Mike Nellums, principal of the Jacksonville Boys Middle School, told the group that school patrons need to join him in pushing the district for more monitors. Nellums said that he has a reputation in the community for dealing proactively with behavior problems, but that to do so, parents and students must come forward with information about bullying.
“We can’t do anything about something we know nothing about,” he said.
Several parents complained about their boys being bullied while students at Jacksonville Boys Middle School. Two who did not want to be identified said that the school administration had done little to remedy the problems. Others were more supportive.
Bill Hansen, the father of twin boys who just graduated from the boys school, lauded Nellums and his staff for “handling complaints quickly and professionally.” However, Hansen, who is white, said that his sons had been victims of repeated bullying by blacks. He believed his sons were targeted because they were white.
“That was a big hill for them to climb because I raised them to not be sexist or racist, to believe everybody is equal, but they were assaulted at every turn,” he said. “They encountered a lot of stress at the school, were treated in ways that are not allowed out in society, in the workplace.”
Hansen said that if the same problems persist for his boys at Jacksonville High School, he will school them elsewhere. He predicted other whites will leave the schools for the same reason.
Another father, Rizzelle Aa-ron, who is black, related how his son had been bullied b