WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Police, businesses and people living in the area of Parkland High School in Winston-Salem say they’ve been dealing with the same problem for years: students skipping class.
“From a law enforcement perspective, our biggest concern is the risk to that student when they’re absent,” said Lt. Tom Peterson, of the Winston-Salem Police Department’s Educational Services Unit.
The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system says Parkland’s absentee numbers mirror those of other schools, but police say delinquent activity as a result is reported to them in higher numbers in the Parkland area.
“We do experience some of those challenges that we don’t see as frequently as at the other schools,” Peterson said. “You can’t rule out that some of these students are engaged in criminal conduct while they’re gone, or they may be engaged in behavior that’s just dangerous to themselves.”
Peterson added that at the end of the school day, students can be seen returning to campus in large numbers, in order to catch their school bus to be brought back to their homes.
“There’s certainly, I think, an opportunity to improve at this particular high school of how we can keep the students there and on campus,” Peterson said.
People living in the neighborhoods surrounding Parkland say they’ve been complaining of the effects of students skipping school for years.
“I’ve been broken into at least four times,” said a nearby homeowner, who we will call “Mary,” as she did not want to be identified. “The school hours, you can see kids walking up and down the street at all times.”
Brent Campbell, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools chief program officer, tells FOX8 that Parkland High has three monitors watching the school’s exits during the day and five staff members stationed in the bus lots in the afternoons. He added that parents are notified when a student skips school, via phone call after three absences, written letter after five and more steps are taken once those numbers rise, in accordance with the school system’s attendance policies and procedures.
“It’s hard sometimes to detain a student who’s over 16 who decides they’re going to leave for the day,” Campbell said, adding that how they react to absences is something they “have to look at on an ongoing basis.”
Police described Parkland’s campus as “porous,” when speaking of the ease at which students can walk on and off of it.
“I don’t know that it’s easier to get off the campus at Parkland, but it’s definitely more enticing,” Campbell said.
Parkland is located along Peters Creek Parkway, home to multiple businesses and restaurants, as well as many of the neighborhoods in which some of the students live.
All parties agree that they must work together to address the skipping issue, but also that some of that responsibility belongs to the parents.
“I think there is some parent responsibility in knowing that your student is attending school,” Peterson said.
“Well, it definitely starts in the home,” Mary said. “You’ve got to have the parents.”
“Just constant communication with your student, as to what’s happening at school and what they’re doing throughout the day is key to solving some of this problem,” Campbell said, adding that if a parent thinks their student may be skipping school, they can always contact the school to ask for themselves.
“Bottom line here is that we want these students in class every single day,” Campbell said.