Punched by students, dragged by their hair: Report details a year’s worth of incidents at CCSD alternative school

Liberty Hill Academy is CCSD’s K-8 alternative program and day treatment center that has around...
Liberty Hill Academy is CCSD’s K-8 alternative program and day treatment center that has around 100 students. (Source: Live 5)(Live 5)
Updated: Nov. 9, 2018 at 8:06 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Newly-released documents show 26 incidents in which staff members at a Charleston County School District alternative school were injured on school grounds.

The incidents happened Liberty Hill Academy, which is the Charleston County School District’s K-8 alternative program and day treatment center. The school has approximately 100 students.

Live 5 News uncovered nearly 4,000 student disciplinary incidents that were filed at the school last year. Nearly half of those were never processed.

Recordings of 911 calls from the school give a glimpse at some of those disciplinary indigents.

“She’s in the lobby and we’re trying to keep her out of the school, but she was swinging staff, hitting staff and we’re having a hard time to contain her,” a Liberty Hill staff member said in a January 2018 911 call.

Documents requested from CCSD show 26 incidents where Liberty Hill staff members were injured at the school during the 2017-2018 school year. The injuries reported range from crushing to respiratory disorders. Incidents include staff members getting punched in the face by students, headbutted or getting dragged by their hair by a student.

Documents from CCSD details an incident in which “a student pulled her hair and dragged her across the floor" and stated the victim had a lump in back of her head and was experiencing dizziness and a headache. That same incident said the staff member rated her pain an eight out of 10.

There were several incidents where students punch staff members were punched by students.

“A student punched her on the left side of face and contact popped out." The victim "saw stars, but didn’t pass out,” the document states. That incident occurred in October 2017. That same month, it said a staff member was headbutted in the face, causing her head to snap back and get dizzy.

There were also several instances where students slammed staff member’s body parts, such as a back and fingers, in the door.

In April 2018, three staff members received comp pay after the three had different systems pertaining to a burning sensation, chest pain, and throat problems after a student sprayed pepper spray inside the school.

There is another incident in the document that shows a desk was thrown on a staff member’s foot.

There are several times where a student pushed staff members up against objects such as tables and the door.

When asked about one of the incidents in October, Liberty Hill Principal Chris Haynes said he couldn’t discuss any personnel issue. Haynes said there have been a lot of changes this school year, including early dismissal one a day a week for staff training.

Haynes also said the school has hired two support staff members. One of those staff members is a behavioral interventionist that has a supervisor role over support staff. The other staff member is a lead special education teacher. Haynes said this teacher looks for alternative ways to discipline students.

“My philosophy is discipline is not supposed to be a punishment,” Haynes said. “It is meant to be a way to correct behavior, so that’s our goal and if that’s our goal we need some extra assistance and I think we’re getting that.”

Haynes said the school has taken measures to keep up with disciplinary referrals after having nearly 4,000 last year school year.

“This data shows that that is 22 referrals a day,” Haynes said.

Haynes also said they were short on staff members who are responsible for processing referrals. He also said with that many referrals coming in it’s a long paperwork process.

“An administrative team doing all the other things, observing teachers, talking to parents, community outreach, all that stuff that would take their entire day every day and still probably be behind in referrals," he said. "So, we went to teaching staff and support staff and said what do we need to handle immediately, what can we wait a couple days.”

With changes that have been made this year, Haynes said he is seeing an improvement.

“I’ve seen more of our students leveling up through our leveling system and I think park of that is our teachers are feeling supported and they’re doing their job and they’re happy,” Haynes said. “I feel a happier environment here.”

Charleston County School District spokesman Andy Pruitt issued a statement late Friday on the documents:

"The District is aware of what occurred at Liberty Hill Academy in the 2017-2018 school year. We value our staff members safety, and have worked diligently with Principal Haynes to create a safer environment for everyone at Liberty Hill this school year.

It is important to add that 54 students have returned to their home schools in each of the past two years. A total of 108 young people have earned another chance at completing an education that could change their lives. Our staff at Liberty Hill Academy made that happen, and will continue to make it happen."

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