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May 23, 2015

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The Turnaround:

Chaparral High principal: Successful start to school year

David Wilson, principal of Chaparral High School, on Thursday, August 18, 2011.

David Wilson, principal of Chaparral High School, on Thursday, August 18, 2011.

The school year has started off well at Chaparral. Student suspensions, referrals and parent conferences for behavioral issues are significantly down when compared with the first two weeks of the 2010 school year. We’ve aggressively enforced new campus rules: no tardies, no saggy pants or bare midriffs; no use of cellphones or iPods during the school day. Every hallway is staffed with assistant principals, teachers and hall monitors during the changeover between class periods. Students keep moving and have little time to congregate. The results have been positive, but there was a significant challenge recently.

A teacher spotted a fight just off school grounds. She saw one of the young men involved in the fight head toward our campus. She believed he had a gun. We contacted Metro and the School Police. Within minutes, the school was locked down, School and Metro Police were here, a Metro helicopter was overhead, and the suspect — a 21-year-old former Chaparral student — was found standing by a stairwell. Assistant Principal Lolo James, a former college football player and coach, shoved him into a wall, and a School Police officer handcuffed and arrested him. As we held the young man, we could feel his heart race. The entire episode, from initial report to arrest, took no more than a few minutes.

I was impressed with our students. They handled it well, better than many adults would have responded. They remained calmly in their classrooms during the lockdown and moved about without any trouble as it wrapped up. I would have been like most adults and gawked, but none of our students gathered to watch the aftermath of the incident. Our hall monitors kept them moving.

The take-away for me was that the coordinated efforts of Metro and the Clark County School District Police was phenomenal, and so was the response of our kids. I don’t ever remember that happening on my high school campus when I was a kid.

David Wilson is principal at Chaparral High School

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