Firearms and other weapons, fights and other infractions are exceeding what Fulton County Schools anticipated even in these challenging times, Superintendent of Schools Mike Looney told the school board at its Sept. 30 meeting.

“As the superintendent of schools, I’m drawing a line in the sand tonight. We have got to change the narrative of student disruptions. This TikTok nonsense that’s creating havoc in schools across the country has to stop, and we are going to enforce our school rules and hold students accountable for their misconduct,” he said.

The Fulton County Schools Police Department monitors social media in an attempt to prevent problems caused by children.

Parents will be asked to reimburse the school district for damages done in schools as a result of misconduct. As Reporter Newspapers previously reported, students have been damaging school property as part of a viral TikTok challenge. 

The district is ramping up the use of police dogs to smell drugs, explosives and gun residue in the schools, Looney said. 

“Our dogs will be in use this year. They’re going to come without notice. They’re going to be thorough, and people found in violation of the law will be dealt with sternly and appropriately,” he said.

He said schools aren’t places for violence, guns, knives, gang fights or large group fights.

The school district expected additional disciplinary infractions as students struggled to react to the limited routines of school.

“But to be frank with you, we didn’t anticipate the volume of infractions, the severity of infractions. And we didn’t anticipate the extreme challenge of hiring a sufficient number of staff members in our schools to get the work done,” Looney said.

Vacancies exist in every department in the school district. He encouraged anyone interested in serving students to consider contacting the talent division.

The Fulton Schools Police Department has helped make sure schools are safe, secure places, Looney said.

“Because of their diligence and hard work with the school administrators, we have been able to apprehend students that have firearms in our schools this year, weapons that could cause damage.  We’ve had more fights, and we’ve been able to resolve those in a safe manner,” he said.

The school district held 60 tribunals just in August, Looney said. Tribunals are hearings in which a student is charged with drugs or carrying a weapon such as a knife or a gun. The school system was never ready for that, he said.

It will take the entire school community, including parents, to make sure students don’t bring weapons to school or take them from their homes before coming to school. He said parents need to engage in checking what their children are doing on social media.

The school district’s Police Department actively monitors social media channels and intercedes when it can to prevent infractions to the extent that federal law enforcement agencies have been engaged in Fulton schools this year.

“With that being said, we also are facing a time where I believe our community in our country is grieving. We feel like we’ve lost control of our lives due to the pandemic, and circumstances beyond our control,” Looney said.

The schools reflect what’s happening in the broader community, he said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.