Gary Bechtel, Bibb County Board of Education
School board member Gary Bechtel says a wave of reported crimes at Bibb schools this week shows that the district has not been taking discipline seriously.
Bechtel says he thinks principals and teachers are now reporting cases that might have gotten a pass in the past.
"With the sudden increase or the knowledge of these incidents this week, it makes you think that this can not be isolated," said Bechtel.
He credits last week's release of a consultant's report on discipline and safety problems and reaction from school officials.
"A lot of this was probably going on over the last 18 to 20 months that the media, the community and the board members were not made aware of," he said.
The report said there is a culture of "underreporting" crime at Bibb schools and that teachers and principals felt they were being discouraged from reporting problems. This week, assistant school supt. Edward Judie said the district will work to correct that.
"Now that that's been exposed, I think the administration is quick to get this information out there," he said. "So to hopefully absolve themselves of some of the blame that has shown up in this report."
Bechtel said the district has not taken discipline seriously for the past 18 months to two years. He is a frequent critic of school Supt. Romain Dallemand, who took office 20 months ago.
Dallemand has said one of his goals is to keep problem students in school, rather than expel or suspend them.
Bechtel says he thinks the administration is now trying to be proactive against crime in schools, but if they had been proactive earlier, some of the problems could have been prevented.
He says there's no telling how many of the students involved in this week's cases shouldn't have been in school because of other problems.
The board is scheduled to meet Monday, and its agenda simply says they will discuss "discipline matters." Bechtel says the board members requested that meeting based on the report by consultants Safe Havens Inc.
School spokesman Donald Porter says Dallemand is not available for comment today. But he said he didn't know where Dallemand is Friday or whether he's in town.
"I've not seen him answer questions by reporters and he's reluctant to answer any of mine, so I'm not surprised," said Bechtel.