Last Thursday afternoon, there were two separate fights at the Digital Learning Center, an alternative high school that is part of the Ferndale Public Schools located at the former Taft school building. The fights were intense, but brief. Unfortunately, one program administrator was injured, requiring medical care, in the process of restoring order to the lunch room. The other fight involved the school resource officer being allegedly struck in the process of breaking up the second fight. Neither fight spilled off of school grounds, and police responded quickly to both incidents.
Ferndale Public Schools officials take all fights seriously. The students involved will be held accountable for their actions by the school district and in the justice system, while being provided with due process. Witnesses are being interviewed and the incident reviewed in depth, and appropriate consequences will be issued. District officials have put steps in place at the Digital Learning Center to minimize fights and to protect the neighborhood. These include the presence of a police officer, security staff at the door, building a positive school culture with strong student‐teacher relationships, building relationships with the neighborhood association, and providing students with the services they need to focus on education. In this case the DLC staff and the school resource officer worked together to stop the fights, and the involved students were taken into custody by police.
Every student deserves a safe and supportive learning environment. Even one fight is too many for the students and staff who are involved or witness it. It is important to note that the Digital Learning Center and other Ferndale Public Schools do not have more frequent nor more intense fights than do other high schools, in general. FPS keeps careful records of student discipline incidents, particularly those that result in suspensions. Police officers, who serve as school resource officers, are present in our secondary schools, as they are in nearly all Oakland County high schools, to build relationships with students, to maintain good order through their presence, and to intervene when laws are broken or safety is threatened.
Since launching the Digital Learning Center in September 2012, the school district has worked to build a positive school culture at the DLC, while also emphasizing the district‐wide code of conduct, providing additional security, and having the presence of a school resource officer. Every day that the DLC is open, you will find calm hallways, engaged students in classrooms, and teachers helping their students make progress toward high school degrees.
Ferndale Public Schools have been providing alternative and adult education to the community since the 1940s, including to our neighboring communities. The district does this because we have the capacity to do so, our teachers love doing it and they do it well, and because we believe it is the right thing to do for the students and for the greater school district.
Beginning Monday, September 23, 2013, additional steps were taken to make sure the school and community continue to feel safe. These included assigning additional administrators to the school, adding security staff, and continuing support from top administration leaders. The school board believes in the goals of alternative education. We have met these students and attended the first DLC commencement ceremony last June. We believe in them, and like all Ferndale Schools students, we support their educational goals. The board and staff will strive to make the DLC work for all stakeholders and to ensure that educational benchmarks are met and exceeded.