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Morgan Hill
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August 10, 2022

Parents demand action on school violence

Victim of Nov. 18 Live Oak assault still recovering, mother says

A student who was assaulted by multiple classmates at Live Oak High School in November is still recovering from injuries he suffered in the attack, according to his mother, who recently addressed the local school board to ask for more action to reduce on-campus violence.

Stacy Davis told the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Trustees Dec. 14 that her son “is still suffering from head injuries, PTSD and trauma” resulting from the Nov. 18 assault. Her son was attacked by eight students, who used weapons, in the quad area of the East Main Avenue campus during brunch, she said.

The incident—and other recent fights at Live Oak High School—resulted from inadequate staffing on site, Davis said. She also said recent school violence, including the assault on her son, are related to increasing gang activity on campus.

“The sheer number of kids involved with this (Nov. 18 assault) could have been stopped if the school had adequate staffing and security,” Davis told the trustees. “My son was kicked over 30 times and punched with brass knuckles over 20 times in the head.”

She added, “There were no adults in sight” when the assault occurred.

Morgan Hill Police officers responded to the assault as it was in progress and arrested six of the students who were involved in the Nov. 18 incident. All six of the students were cited or charged with felonies, according to police.

The violence happened just as Davis’ son was beginning to have a “normal teen experience” and was enjoying being back in school, Davis told the board. She said she moved to Morgan Hill six years ago specifically to provide her son a positive school experience.

She added that she has complained to LOHS staff about increasing gang activity on campus since January 2019, but has not received a productive response. “The violence at Live Oak High School has been escalating for the last three years, yet not enough has been done, in my opinion, to protect our kids,” Davis said. “My son could have died or been permanently brain damaged due to this assault.”

Davis asked the school board to “take immediate action and allocate emergency funding to support services such as enhanced security and counseling, and to review and amend policies to ensure our kids are safe and our families are getting the services they need.”

MHUSD officials and Morgan Hill Police Department did not provide specific data about the rate of violence—or its motivating factors—at local schools.

MHPD Capt. Mario Ramirez said that while crime is “slightly up” throughout Morgan Hill, incidents of crime in general have dropped at LOHS, Sobrato High School and Britton Middle School.

He added that with the recent implementation of the city’s Youth Diversion Program, officials aim to provide easier and increased access to resources for children who are at risk. The local program includes an MHPD Youth Diversion Specialist who works with a Deputy District Attorney to refer youth to the program as an alternative to entering the justice system, according to a Dec. 1 city staff report.

The city and MHUSD jointly fund a School Resource Officer who is a sworn MHPD officer. In the past, there have been two SROs assigned to local campuses.

“The Morgan Hill Police Department will continue to work closely with (MHUSD), as it is our shared mission to provide the students of our community with a safe and supportive learning environment,” Ramirez added.

When asked about Davis’ Dec. 14 comments by email, MHUSD spokeswoman Lanae Bays said in a statement that “isolated incidents” sometimes occur on local campuses. She added that students’ safety and well-being “will always be at the forefront of everything that we do.”

Bays’ statement continued, “We are proud of our partnership with parents, MHUSD staff, community partners and MHPD so that we may continue to provide a safe environment where the vast majority of students attend class and participate in after school activities without any incident. Our goal is to ensure that all students are engaged, welcomed and academically supported so that each is successful.”

Christina Smith, also a mother of a LOHS student who has faced violence on campus, spoke to the MHUSD board Dec. 14 as well. In an incident last year, she said her son was “surrounded” by bullies in a classroom and was “forced to defend himself.”

Her son now faces criminal charges for his role in the ensuing altercation.

Smith also blames the school district for failing to control violent students.

“I feel like something needs to be changed,” Smith said.

Numerous other parents have raised their concerns about violence on MHUSD campuses on social media in recent months. Anecdotal reports from other districts in California and other states have suggested that fighting, bullying and violence have increased at schools since students returned to campus full-time from pandemic-era shelter-in-place restrictions.

A Nov. 17 report by US News describes some of these accounts, including some in which teachers and school staff have been victims of student violence. From Aug. 1 to Nov. 3, there were 123 incidents of shootings on school property throughout the U.S., according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

On May 20, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security anticipated an increase of violence on campus when it issued a public address bulletin titled “Mitigating the Threat of School Violence as the U.S. ‘Returns to Normal’ from the Covid Pandemic and Beyond.” The bulletin aims to “raise awareness of the likelihood that students may have been exposed to multiple risk factors during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Detailed data about criminal incidents at MHUSD schools could not be compiled by press time. No shootings or gun-related incidents have been reported on local campuses this year. 

Because most student offenders are juveniles, the police department and school district are generally not permitted to release information about specific cases.

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