'We're better than this:' Fire, fight at Upper Darby High School worries district

The superintendent believes part of the problem is that issues from social media are making their way into the classroom.
UPPER DARBY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Students in the Upper Darby School District will start seeing stricter disciplinary guidelines this week after two incidents led to a virtual day of learning last Friday.

The superintendent says he thinks students are lashing out because they're under a lot of pressure with the pandemic and being back at school.

"Especially with assignments, being here on time, everyone's just trying to adjust the way they are. So either we just need more time or just a little more help from the teachers," said Alanys Guzman, a senior at Upper Darby High School.

She is one of nearly 4,000 high schoolers at Upper Darby back to full-time, in-person learning for the first time in a year and a half.

"It's been really odd though," said Tylen Bagley, another senior.

"We're worried. I'm worried about the social well-being, mental health of our kids suffering through what they're suffering through," said Superintendent Daniel McGarry.

Last Wednesday, the high school was evacuated after a student set a paper towel roll on fire in the bathroom.

On Thursday, the school went into lockdown after a group of girls got into a fight and then their parents began fighting too.

This led to a day of virtual learning Friday and a new disciplinary set of guidelines for the district starting this week.

"We're better than this and it's really not acceptable to conduct ourselves like that," said McGarry.

He says he believes part of the problem is that issues from social media are making their way into the classroom.

"We're aware of the Tik Tok challenge, we're aware of what students are being asked to do. We had lesson plans today in our school, we're going to have lesson plans tomorrow, talking about appropriate conduct, appropriate behavior," he said.

He also plans to involve the district attorney's office and hold an assembly and training with students about the consequences of their actions online.

The district hopes parents will get involved too.

"We have to try to make the best of it, we all have to come and try and pull together and get through these kinds of times. Parents have to stay home, talk to their children, let them know what to do, what not to do. Everything begins at home. Learning begins at home," said Gwen Greenlee, a parent and retired teacher.

The district also wants to appoint "brand ambassadors" in the community who will highlight positives happening in Upper Darby and try to extinguish negative behaviors online.
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