Most of the students suspended this week from Mont Pleasant Middle School are boys, but several girls were also sent away because they developed their own fight club.
“They see themselves as fighters. ‘Who’s No. 1?’ ” Schenectady schools Superintendent Laurence Spring said.
They organized fights outside of school to test each other and earn that No. 1 status, he said. And it caused problems in school.
He said it was as if rival sports teams attended the same classes.
“There’s some words exchanged. There’s some trash talk,” he said.
The boys who were suspended had one thing in common: They are all older than the typical eighth-grader at Mont Pleasant. Some were as old as 16, Spring said.
He was openly critical of the decision to make those students repeat several grades and still stay in the regular school system.
“How did we think that would work out, to have a 16-year-old in this building?” he said. “I can’t have them in a classroom with 12-year-olds. That won’t work.”
Now that they have been suspended indefinitely, all of them — boys and girls — will meet individually with social workers and psychologists. Spring is counting on those professionals to help him figure out how to turn the teens around.
“And we’re going to have to see what comes of that,” Spring said. “What do we design that’s going to work for them?”
He expects to design individual programs for each student, trying to address their social and emotional problems first and then get them focused on academics.
But the goal must be to get them into a school with students of the same age, he said.
“That’s probably going to have to entail catching up with his age peers,” Spring said. “We’ve got a lot of things to do in terms of creating programs.”