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CBS Miami

School campus disruptions amplified by social media stir parental concern

By Joan Murray,


Fights on local school campuses stir concern among parents 04:25

FORT LAUDERDALE -- South Florida public schools are on spring break after weeks of disruptions.

Those interruptions last Thursday included several fights during lunch at Northwestern Senior High School in Miami which included arrests that took place outside of school.

And there were numerous fights the week before during lunch in the courtyard of Ft Lauderdale High School. Some students were upset that classmates were banging on doors to get into classrooms when the school went into lockdown

The Broward School District said more than 30 students were disciplined during the incident, which brought counselors to campus the following day to help students who were distressed over the chaos

According to Broward School Board member Allen Zeman, on the same day as the Ft Lauderdale fights, there were false alarms at Stranahan High School and Sunrise Middle School.

The following Monday, Ft Lauderdale High Sschool was on lockdown again when there was an unfounded threat

CBS News Miami spoke to two mothers with children enrolled at Ft Lauderdale High School who were troubled by the incidents

"It was chaos," parent Analia Tower said. "It did not look like school."

Tower says her daughter is thinking of leaving the school because of the disruptions

Tower says when her daughter texted her about the courtyard brawls, "I started praying because I felt she was safe. And she texted me and said, 'I'm never safe.'"

Another mother says her daughter was traumatized when the school went on lockdown on March 13 because of an unfounded threat

"She was freaked out and everybody was crying," the parent said.

Knowing that safety is a top priority, the parent says schools could do a better job of not alarming students when there is a reported threat.

"I think there are plenty of safety measures they don't have to know about so they don't live in fear," she said.

Jaime Alberti, head of Safety and Security for the Broward School District, said the number of campus fights is down but things seem worse because "there s been more social media attached to what's happening."

Alberti said while there are fewer fights, visibility is increasing.

Students are recording what's happening on cell phones and publicizing it over online social media sites.

"Kids should talk to principals or an adult about a threat because the amount of misinformation causes people to get nervous," he said.

Officials with Miami-Dade Public Schools also say the number of fights on their campuses are down but, like Broward, students are recording incidents and putting it out on social media

To get further insight into the impact of disruptions we talked to three Broward teachers from each grade level

An elementary middle and high school teacher

"Children are restless and the principal will sometimes lock down the school before it escalates," said middle school teaching assistant Valencia W., adding that all the disruptions lead to less learning.

Longtime high school teacher Maurizio DiSciullo said cell phones and social media contribute to disruptions at school.

"Texts are exchanged often online and it escalates to a hostile response," he said.

Jacqueline B. says she was left out of the loop when it was revealed that a kindergarten student had threatened to bring a gun to school. The student is in her class.

"I think we need better communication," she said. "Everyone included and that didn't happen."

All three say teachers need better pay and parents need to take a bigger role.

And all agree some controls should be placed on students recording incidents and disseminating videos through social media.

"Everything but emergency dialing should be locked out," DiSciullo said.

Broward interim Superintendent Dr. Earlean Smiley said there are no easy solutions, agreeing that the use of cell phones and social media in school are part of the problem.

"We have to educate students and help their parents," Smiley said. "Understand there is a place and time. Hopefully parents will help us stabilize the tools."

After losing her daughter in the Parkland shooting tragedy Lori Alhadeff says safety has to be the priority.

She says her non-profit organization called Make our Schools Safe encourages students to be part of the solution

"It's gonna look different at every school," she said. "What's important is students feeling comfortable to prevent violence."

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