Newly obtained documents detail violence at Washington Middle School

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Police records obtained by Action 2 News show problems at Green Bay's Washington Middle School have existed for several years.

The public spotlight has been on the school since June. Former Washington Middle School teacher Kerstin Westcott resigned in front of the school board after detailing incidents of violence, abuse, and fear for the safety of students and staff.

A video of her resignation went viral and prompted the school to hold a news conference to address the concerns.

Action 2 News filed open records requests and recently received a batch of documents. One of those documents was a five-page letter written May 7, and addressed to school board member Ed Dorff, who once served as interim principal at Washington Middle School. The letter was written anonymously. The author was later identified as Kerstin Westcott.

She detailed many of the allegations she would publicly tell the school board in June.

We have included all five pages of Westcott's letter below. WARNING: The letter contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.

THE STUDENTS HAVE CONTROL OF THE SCHOOL

The letter starts, "It has been a difficult road for our school these past few years. The safety of students and staff has been deteriorating for a long time."

Westcott goes on to detail the following incidents that happened during the 2016-2017 school year:

-"Student set 3 fires in the bathrooms-we were never evacuated"
-"[Redacted] was kicked in the face during a fight and his glasses were broken"
-"Drugs and cigarettes have been both sold and used in and around the school"
-"So many fights that students have started arming themselves with weapons (including brass knuckles, knives, a large stick, and a lock) with which to fight"
-"Student jumped and beaten to the ground and kicked in the head and stomach repeatedly while she was down"
-"Student approached a teacher personally and said he had a gun and was going to shoot that teacher"
-"Student told staff, 'I am going to kill the teacher. I am going to get a shotgun and find out where he lives. Watch me. I am not kidding.'"

During a fight, Westcott recalls an administrator telling a teacher, "We're numb to fights around here. Is it a real fight?"

The letter says 11 percent of Washington Middle School students were in the "red zone" for behavior, meaning they had committed at least six major offenses during the school year.

Dorff immediately forwarded the letter to Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld and the school board, asking if they knew about the allegations.

We don't know what they knew, but we do know administrators received emails that night, and called for a meeting the next day.

THE POLICE RESPONSE

Green Bay Police records show Washington Middle School has had more problems than Green Bay Area Public School District's other middle schools over the past three years.

The number of police citations at Washington Middle School:

2016-2017: 122
2015-2016: 142
2014-2015: 60

The majority of the tickets were issued for disorderly conduct. In the 2016-2017 school year, loitering and truancy were slightly bigger problems.

Westcott addressed it in her letter to Dorff in May, saying the "level of truancy inside the school has exploded."

She spoke of dozens of students roaming the halls instead of attending classes. Westcott's letter said students hid in the basement and in an elevator.

"They wander the school in small groups and terrorize our hallways and classrooms. They pound on our doors, shake our door handles, scream swear words into our vents, punch and kick the lockers, blare inappropriate music at full volume through their cell phones, and disrupt classes every day."

At a July 10 school board meeting, district Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld issued her first public apology.

"It simply has not been enough, and for that I have apologized to the staff and Ms. Westcott. We are very sorry. And we can do better and that's what we're working on," Langenfeld said.

WHAT'S NEXT?

The school district says it will add administration, teachers, and staff to Washington Middle School next year, and it will be reviewing data and reports throughout the year. Previously, the district reviewed those reports at the end of the school year.

"If we can identify what those trigger points are that are critical to understand the life of a school, we think we can more quickly respond when things aren't going the way they should be," said Tom Hoh, Executive Director of Secondary Education.

At Monday night's board meeting, school administrators also mentioned the possibility of starting a teen court. The Brown County District Attorney's Office tells Action 2 News it has reached out to the school district to see if it can be of help in finding a solution but didn't offer any other specific information.

Administrators also said they are looking to have more mentors for Washington students in the upcoming school year and are working with the neighborhood association to come up with other solutions and ideas.




 
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