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Our opinion: Let's learn our lessons from New Hope

 

 

What''s in the water in New Hope? 

 

The unincorporated community east of Columbus in Lowndes County has had its share of controversy in recent weeks. Last week, a woman was arrested on two counts of statutory rape after two New Hope High School students were turned over to her during the school day -- one of whom she wasn''t authorized to check out. This appears to be an egregious and unforgivable breach of campus security. 

 

This week, a teacher at the school, Katherine Robbins, was indicted by a Lowndes County grand jury for sexual battery on a student. The married mother of two allegedly had a consensual relationship with the student, but was found to have abused her position of authority over the student. 

 

These incidents come on the heels of a 10-year-old New Hope Elementary student caught with a gun (albeit unloaded) at the school. 

 

We have an ex-New Hope High principal, Lynn Wright, running for district superintendent. Wright was fired, over the improper purchase of a lawnmower, by the school district he now wants to lead. (Wright is suing the district and maintains he did nothing wrong.) Wright was caught up in the tempest surrounding popular New Hope High baseball coach Stacy Hester''s removal as coach. (He''s also suing the district.) 

 

Are these incidents and legal episodes part of a larger pattern? Have administrators lost control of the New Hope schools? 

 

We think not. While these are terrible occurrences, they happen everywhere. And, we''d point out that New Hope has its share of positives to mix in with these negatives.  

 

New Hope''s perennially strong baseball program advanced to the state playoffs again this year, falling just short of a bid for the title game. The high school boys golf team won a state title just this week. And, we shouldn''t forget that the New Hope schools are the most diverse in the county, and boast some of the highest academic ratings of any of our public schools. 

 

This is indeed gut-check time for parents, teachers and school administrators in New Hope. The criminal cases are indeed very serious, if the accused parties are proven guilty. Now, more than ever, administrators to get out of their offices and into the halls where they can get a better sense of what is going on in their schools. They also need to redouble their efforts to keep parents informed about what''s happening on school campuses. A new superintendent, who will be elected by voters in November, should make these issues a top priority. 

 

And, parents need to stay involved with their children and their schools. Demand accountability from school leaders -- and from your own children. 

 

New Hope is experiencing some serious, tragic bumps in the road -- incidents that can, and do, happen at many schools.  

 

New Hope will get past these incidents, but a larger tragedy would be for us to not learn from them.

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment concernedmom commented at 5/13/2011 11:25:00 AM:

Although I realize this was not the intent of the article, I must say that New Hope's strong baseball program and golf program does not negate the distressing matter of an adult being allowed to check out students that are not her children or of a teacher having an inappropriate relationship with a student. I'm sure New Hope is an excellent school, but as a parent, you better show me a much better reason to send my child to a school with these kind of problems than a good baseball team or golf program.

 

Article Comment deezee commented at 5/13/2011 11:49:00 AM:

@ concernedmom: I SECOND your comment--DITTO!

 

Article Comment jd commented at 5/13/2011 12:42:00 PM:

While sports accomplishments are important, even more important is the security of the students. Someone dropped the ball in the dismissal of the two students to someone not authorized to pick them up. That should have never happened. Anytime an incident happens on campus, parents should be notified immediately! A good school is being allowed to deteriorate due to lack of administrative oversight and enforcement of existing policies. Let's bring New Hope School back to what we know it can be!

 

Article Comment raider commented at 5/13/2011 12:44:00 PM:

What lessons are we supposed to learn from this person's opinion? I don't know what lesson I was supposed to learn about "ex-New Hope High principal, Lynn Wright, running for district superintendent" except that the writer couldn't resist making a negative comment about Lynn Wright. Surely you couldn't be equating a lawn mower purchase to adults sleeping with kids. You would be much more credible if you had mentioned the purported sexual assault by the kid on the play ground that was not immediately reported to the parents. I also believe there have been other situations of adults being too friendly with kids or the failure of school administrators to detect problems early on that you could have mentioned. But, I can't follow your logic in connecting these things and achievements in sports or lawn mower purchases.

 

Article Comment momofthree commented at 5/13/2011 12:53:00 PM:

As a parent at New Hope I also would like to know why the playground issue wasn't mentioned. Also I have tried to be an involved parent, even going so far as to try and sit in the class when I was told one of my children had a behavior problem. At that point I was told I wasn't allowed to observe the classroom. I also have had 2 parent teacher conferences at my own request that the teacher didn't even bother to show up for. On several occasions I have spoken with 2 out of 3 principals and the school counslor about them speaking with my child, now we have 1 week left of school and still no inside help. What is this schools problem?

 

Article Comment nunurbidness commented at 5/13/2011 2:29:00 PM:

momofthree >> If you are having this big of a problem scheduling/meeting with school personnel, maybe you should just tell us all who the teacher is. I guarantee that you will get some action if you do this. If you don't share this information with the public, nothing will ever get done. Real names printed in a local newspaper will get action. Nothing you said in your post above is going to get you anywhere.

 

Article Comment nunurbidness commented at 5/13/2011 2:32:00 PM:

Oh, I forgot to mention that my child was on the State Championship Softball Team and that the football team went deep in the playoffs just like the baseball team did. Maybe these coaches of the sports teams should be in the classroom more often. They seem to get results from the kids more than some, I said some, of the teachers who are just dead weight.

 

Article Comment productofnewhope commented at 5/13/2011 4:34:00 PM:

While this recent outbreak of sexual misconduct is indeed disturbing, unfortunately it is nothing new at New Hope. There were alleged and confirmed affairs between teachers and students long before I was in high school there which was a good while back. One incident happened between a female student and one of the coaches at the school. Originally, like all high school gossip, I assumed that it was just false rumors. But as time went by more and more inapropriate behavior was occuring between the two. When the principal at the time (current Lowndes County Sup.) was informed/questioned about the affair his reply was there is nothing they could do. Turns out that the "rumors" were true and the coach left his wife for the student as soon as she graduated. Even after this, the coach was employed at New Hope for several more years. Now I know that rumors run wild in a small community, but incidents like these must be investigated. I do not think that New Hope is a bad school or community, but this type of behavior can no longer go overlooked. And along with the other comments, the success of the sports programs have no relation to the indecent actions that have taken place as of late.

 

Article Comment zenreaper commented at 5/13/2011 5:48:00 PM:

Okay, lets stop the discount on charges and sentencing for WOMEN. Lets stop calling it "inappropriate sexual conduct" and call it what it would be called if the prepetrator was a man and the victim was a young girl...RAPE. RAPE is defined as nonconsentual sex with another party. If one of the parties is, due to age, UNABLE to "consent", then the sex is NON consentual. This teacher and this parent RAPED those children. Regardless of the gender of the victim, this act will have LONG term consequences for the child involved.

And it would be nice of the NEWSPAPER would treat it as slighly more than a "bump in the road".

 

Article Comment whatithink commented at 5/13/2011 7:06:00 PM:

Eight years ago I went personally to the Lowndes County Supt. of Education about a New Hope High School teacher (Who is still teaching there) with concerns about sexual activity with students. The information came from students from New Hope High. Over the years since I have heard the same information from numerous people.
The teacher is still teaching and when the first reports of this latest incident happen most people I talked to thought it was the teacher I had reported. Low and behold could it be another teacher at New Hope High.

 

Article Comment leyden commented at 5/13/2011 10:10:00 PM:

The only complaint I have with New Hope is that a teacher in the high school two years ago let kids come to her house before the prom and they were letting the kids mix vodka into mt.dew bottles.She was there along with some other parents who were all cool with it. These kids were so drunk at prom that thier parents were called. After Mr. Wright was told about this he went above and beyond trying to get something done. The people above him wouldn't help. He needs to be Elected for district superintendent. This teacher is still there! Maybe then we can get some things changed!There are alot of really good teachers at New Hope. The two or three bad apples will be gone if Mr. Wright was in charge.

 

Article Comment mysideofthestory commented at 5/13/2011 10:51:00 PM:

As a student of New Hope, all we want is all this crap to stop so we cant LEARN!!! Its hard going from one teacher to another, and exspect us to PAST!

 

Article Comment plainjoe commented at 5/14/2011 7:24:00 AM:

productofnewhope >> Sounds like sour grapes to me. I guess you are still bitter about your daddy getting caught stealing from the school district after he assaulted one of his players in front of the whole team. I would imagine that you are the daughter who was a classmate of the student you are talking about. Sad that your family keeps trying to deflect from what your dad did at New Hope. He is a disgrace to the school and the district.

 

Article Comment nurse21 commented at 5/14/2011 11:12:00 AM:

These type of problems have been going on for ages. I graduated from a Lowndes County High School with honors and I also attended a Monroe County Elementry School and Middle School. I have witnessed many sexual encounters on school buses and in classrooms in both locations.I think that teacher,bus drivers, and ect should really pay close attention to students. When I was in school students would smoke in bathrooms I mean sometimes the hallways would be smoked out. Teachers would dress sexy,and students would have sexual encounters at school. I have even heard children as young as 6-10 having sexual encounters at school. This is not only a problem in county schools but all school. Bullying,abuse and many other problems.

 

Article Comment stirthestupid commented at 5/14/2011 12:11:00 PM:

All this is just a product of our ever declining spiritual state.
This problem is only going to grow because - their is a way that seems right to man and its end is the way of death......

Kids are being raised by parents that have no clue how to raise them...
because they do what they think is right not the guidelines that their creator set forth for them....yeah yeah I now know some liberal self proclaimed prophet knows better than God ....so I will shut up and let you give your Way that seems right....soooooo longgggggg
NO GOD NO PEACE KNOW GOD KNOW PEACE......

 

Article Comment zenreaper commented at 5/14/2011 4:04:00 PM:

stirthestupid:
First of all, its a PUBLIC school, so your religious Christian mentality and rules have NO bearing. See, not all the kids that go there are Christian. Second, how, EXACTLY, is it the PARENTS fault that a school hires and continues to employ sexual predators?

Oh, yeah, I forgot, you believe in the BIBLE, which is RIFE with incest, rape, slavery, misogyny, abuse, murder, and all manner of attrocities, all "okay" in the eyes of your God.

 

Article Comment pete commented at 5/15/2011 7:08:00 AM:

>>Raider, the playground wasn't mentioned because there was no sexual assult. The whole thing was dismissed by Judge Howard. I heard that fiasco was a result of a mom who called 911 saying her first grader was raped by another first grader on the playground! Seriously? What should be looked into is why Dr. Ballard was arrested and signed a $1000 bond when MS Code 99-3-28 of 1972 was written to protect people like school employees, ambulance drivers, fireman who are accused of a crime while performing their duties. Judge Peggy Phillips issued that arrest warrant BEFORE the probable cause hearing for Dr. Ballard. 1972? Not something new. Then on the day of the probable cause hearing, the MS code for which she was charged was changed to another one because the first one did not apply! The media stated that Dr. Ballard appeared in Justice Court but that never happened either. Moreover, charges against this "protected" group of citizens has to occur in CIRCUIT Court not Peggy Phillips'. Dr. Ballard has been sharing her experience so that it doesn't happen again to other school employees.

 

Article Comment oletimer commented at 5/15/2011 8:54:00 PM:

The Dispatch is eager to print that Lynn Wright was fired; however, it is not printed that he was fired for TRYING to do the right thing. The lawnmower incident was just what the school district used to get him out. He was fired unjustly and in the trial, it will come out! Mr. Wright tried to suspend a student for being intoxicated at school. Did he get any support? No, his boss sent someone to take that student home. He TRIED many times with NO support. That is when the incident with the lawnmower came up and they used it to get rid of Coach Hester and Mr. Wright. When the trial begins, we will see these employees were fired unjustly and as a part of an ongoing vendetta. If the parents of the children want New Hope to be a stronger school, then they will vote Lynn Wright in and allow him to do the job he was NOT allowed to do as principal. I just wish the Commercial Dispatch would not print he got fired EVERY single time you print his name. Are you going to be at trial when he and Coach Hester win???

 

Article Comment ethel commented at 5/16/2011 5:07:00 AM:

Well, it's plain and simple! Nothing is going to change at New Hope until Mike Halford is out of office. He wouldn't know the truth if it slapped him in the face. Things at New Hope are going to continue to get worse until a superintendent is elected with integrity and the guts to do what's right. Mr. Halford is so busy trying to please the parents and talking out of both sides of his mouth that he can't run a school district properly. If you want things to change at New Hope, pray long and hard about the candidate you will vote for in November. Anything is better than what we have, but Mr. Wright is the man that is going to stand up and do the right thing! That's why he was fired- because he wouldn't go along with Mike Halford's schemes and games. As someone said earlier, all of this will come out in the court room.

 

Article Comment jim varnon commented at 5/16/2011 8:50:00 AM:

I keep reading all of the comments regarding sexual misconduct..among adults and students(17years and above)..None of the parents seem to want to face the issue of the sexual misconduct among the 12- 14 year olds in our middle schools...I'm just saying...if you REALLY want a clean house, with no hypocrisy.. ???

 

Article Comment jim varnon commented at 5/16/2011 9:03:00 AM:

to zenreaper...just asking... Is it really "rape" if the student takes the time to stop and buy the condom and then pre-sets the secret meeting place and then spends a half an hour driving directly to the scene of the dirty deed, knowing in advance, that he is fixing to rendevous with another mans wife ????..ESPECIALLY when this student(?) has already "knocked up" some other girl anyway? (NOT TO MENTION..that he is of legal consent age, i.e.16)THAT was NEVER, NEVER the intent of the satautory rape laws...read your case studies..

 

Article Comment kj commented at 5/16/2011 10:09:00 AM:

@Jim: Yes, it's really rape, because it is defined that way in our state law. But by all means, continue to try and justify an adult having sex with a kid, a teacher having sex with their student. Why should priests be the only ones having sexy times with kids?

 

Article Comment zenreaper commented at 5/16/2011 11:25:00 AM:

"to zenreaper...just asking... Is it really "rape" if the student takes the time to stop and buy the condom and then pre-sets the secret meeting place and then spends a half an hour driving directly to the scene of the dirty deed, knowing in advance, that he is fixing to rendevous with another mans wife ????"

Yeah, because the ADULT in the situation has NO responsibility, right? You people defending their SEXUAL PREDATORS are DISGUSTING. I hope you feel the same when some 40 year old teacher starts screwing YOUR 16 year old daughter. I mean she is old enough to "consent", right?

 

Article Comment jimvarnon commented at 5/16/2011 1:02:00 PM:

TO kj and zenreaper BOTH...You do a great INJUSTICE to YOURSELF in accusing me of "justifying " what this teacher is alledged to have done.. YOU prove that you cannot read and that is a negative reflection, not on me but on yourself.#1. my ONLY contention is that TWO people did this and not just ONE..2...What causes you to assume that my children have not been abused ? #3. If this "child" (17) steals your car, shoots you or burns down the school, lets see how the courts charge him..It will be as an ADULT!!!

 

Article Comment kj commented at 5/16/2011 3:58:00 PM:

@Jim: Perhaps you're correct and I do not understand the concept of justification. But I rather think that you are attempting to justify rape when you say, "Is it really "rape" if..." Because what is justification other than an excuse for behavior that would otherwise be criminal.

You are indeed also saying that the boy acted in a way that implies a willingness to the encounter. But you are also contending that, in other circumstances, this would not be rape and therefore should not be rape in this instance. That's justification.

As for him being charged as an adult, I'm on record as being against that practice. If we take the trouble to legally define adulthood, we should be honorable about applying that label or revise our legal definitions. Our present practice is immoral.

 

Article Comment alight commented at 5/16/2011 5:04:00 PM:

I just want to say that i agree that some bad things have happend at New Hope, but I must say that it happens at all school. I remember a while back there was an incident with a male coach and a female student at Hertage, but you that didnt get put in the paper or on the tv everyday. WOUNDER WHY? As far as Lynn Wright he is a great christian man who does the right thing no matter who you are. His first year at New Hope Halford tried to get rid of him because he had to many disiplin referals. WELL that just says that he is doing his job. The problem is MIKE HALFORDand everyone at the central office. I hope that whoever wins that race they clean house from top to bottom.

 

Article Comment newsjunkie commented at 5/16/2011 8:04:00 PM:

Since these issues at New Hope have surfaced, there have been so many comments saying that there are still other inappropriate teacher/student relationships that have happened in Columbus/Lowndes. How about some investigative journalism? Or do we get all of the real news in the comments sections of the paper? If these allegations are true, this is CRIMINAL behavior, not just fodder for the rumor mills. Are there other teachers who have had/are having affairs with students? Come on, Dispatch, Packet, WCBI. Get the news for us, and put rumors to rest.

 

Article Comment sick commented at 5/16/2011 10:06:00 PM:

You know it saddens me for all of you to pass judgement. Doesn't Jesus say "Judge not least ye be judged". We are not to judge these people this is only for God and the courts to do. No matter what you think you don't know the whole truth. As my father has always told me, there are three sides to every story. Just because you have been told one side of the story doesn't mean you know for a fact what happened.
I would like to take this time to thank Mr. York for his hard work and efforts to keep his school and students safe. I know I can drop my child off at NHE and not worry. I can't speak for the other principals because I don't have children in their buildings. But I'm sure they are doing a good job as well. No one can keep their eyes on all corners at the same time.
Isn't it time for the witch hunts at New Hope to end?

 

Article Comment newsjunkie commented at 5/16/2011 10:50:00 PM:

Investigating allegations is not a "witch hunt." It is the proper thing to do. Not investigating accusations of sexual misconduct (CRIMINAL behavior) is criminal to our kids. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending problems like these do not exist is not the way to go. We are not sitting in judgment if we are asking questions and seeking answers. BTW,if you really want to talk Christian ethics, think about this: The Golden Rule. Just because everything is great for your kid does not mean it's great for everyone else's kid. Let's keep ALL of them safe!

 

Article Comment mysideofthestory commented at 5/16/2011 11:07:00 PM:

Why cant yall just shut up do you think they had problems like this when our grandparents were in school and when they were in school there was a daily prayer in JESUS NAME and all problems were taken care of. The world has gone to maddness! All happening my getting God out of the picture!!! I end with this verse FROM THE BIBLE AND THE ONE AND ONLY GOD!!! 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land! This is his words for all of this crap!! This is sillyness does any other religion have words as powerful as those! WAKE UP PEOPLE!!

 

Article Comment peetie commented at 5/17/2011 6:13:00 AM:

I agree with stirthestupid above. Why is the school blamed for the parents lack of parenting. A third grader shouldn't know where to find an unloaded gun. Where was the parent when he was packing his bookbag for school. Furthermore, these students and adults in the high school DO know better, yet chose the wrong path. Maybe if they had a better involved parent and Christian upbringing better choices would've been made. All of the "incidents" of bad behavior are NOT the school's fault. Get real people. You might want to check your own backyard before you start casting stones in othets'! Good Please fashioned parenting needs to make its way back into EVERY home (mine included) or we're all in for a long hard ride. Just my twocents on the subject. Parenting not schools are the issue.

 

Article Comment sick commented at 5/17/2011 6:57:00 AM:

Peetie you hit the nail on the head!!!!!!!!!

 

Article Comment sick commented at 5/17/2011 10:59:00 AM:

Your right newsjunkie let's keep all the kids safe. Besides if your not directly and your spreading rumors your on a witch hunt. If the proper authorities are handling these or any matters they are no one elses business. I never said sweep it under the rug because that is the wrong thing to do. People need to be held accountable for what they do but they don't need to be crusified in the media or anywhere else. Put yourself in their shoes, if you had done something wrong would you want to be subject to this kind of ridicule. Better yet would you want your children ridiculed?

 

Article Comment nhnative commented at 5/22/2011 8:35:00 PM:

The problem at New Hope has been and will continue to be, at least until November, the superintendent. He talks out of his mouth and his butt. He tells one person what they want to hear and then another what they want to hear. He is not worried about the students, he is worried about himself. Until Mr. Wright or Mrs. McGill gets elected, the same stuff is going to happen. There are a few parents that he is worried about keeeping happy and the rest are just forgotten about.
Teachers and students have been dating and messing around out there for years and nothing has happened and will continue until you get a principal that will hold the teachers accountable for their actions!

 

Article Comment newsjunkie commented at 5/24/2011 8:37:00 AM:

"Teachers and students have been dating and messing around out there for years and nothing has happened"-Sounds like the real problem is that people enjoy talking to each other about what they call "messing around" and you don't stick your necks out to report what is really criminal activity to the authorities. I don't know what the statute of limitations is in this state on such crimes, but if you have an allegation to make about a specific person, you need to report it properly so that it can be investigated. If I had been there as an eye witness or if I had proof, I would report it to the legal authorities immediately, not to the school, nor to this comment box. If more of you did that, there would be fewer children endangered in the community.

 

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