Police suspect outsiders

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Police are investigating the possibility a security lapse allowed nonstudents to enter the Academy of Richmond County on Thursday, and they might have provoked a large fight that ended in at least eight arrests.

Richmond County schools Superintendent Dana Bedden on Friday asked students to be proactive in keeping schools safe.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Richmond County schools Superintendent Dana Bedden on Friday asked students to be proactive in keeping schools safe.

Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said Friday his investigators reviewed a Board of Education videotape and believe the fights started after several students began flashing gang hand gestures, or "signs."

Members of the sheriff's gang task force spent part of Friday at the school attempting to identify suspects from the videotape, which shows more than 100 people exiting into a hallway after a fashion show in the auditorium. Several students began "agitating" one another with the signs, Maj. Autry said, and from there the tension escalated into what one officer called a "riot" over police radio channels.

"We suspect that a couple of people in this video were not students, and it's my understanding that they were not arrested yesterday," Maj. Autry said Friday.

Superintendent Dana Bedden dismissed the suggestion anyone was on campus who shouldn't have been, saying Friday afternoon that nothing he has seen indicates otherwise.

The gang issue is one the community as a whole must deal with, he said. Gangs aren't at Richmond Academy, he said, though students who are members of gangs attend the county's historic school.

Dr. Bedden called on students to help schools be more proactive.

"I would challenge them to ask ... what are they going to do to help us to make sure we are safe," the superintendent said.

Four juveniles and four students 17 and older were charged with disorderly conduct as a result of the fight. Sheriff's Sgt. Blaise Dresser, a member of the department's gang task force, said the signs resembled those used by local gangs called the Harrisburg Posse and Zone 4, which he said are based in neighborhoods surrounding the school.

As students left Friday afternoon for their weeklong spring break, deputies fanned across the campus and into nearby neighborhoods to prevent any incidents. Authorities had already dealt with an argument between some students earlier in the day that was the result of the fight.

Maj. Autry said his department intends to make some additional arrests on gang-related charges based on the individuals identified in the video.

"We're going to be really aggressive with the incident, because it does appear they have a gang problem there," he said.

Dr. Bedden said random searches were conducted Friday at Richmond Academy and nearby Tubman Middle School. The searches will continue.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851.

SALES TAX PROJECTS


Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden might ask school board members to revise a list of sales tax projects, including consolidating schools, because of what he called new information.


It will be a balancing act of recommending what the public needs and what the public wants, Dr. Bedden said Friday. He called a news conference, he said, to quell fears that sales tax dollars are being spent inappropriately.


About $230 million in special purpose local option sales tax revenue is being used to build schools, replace old ones and remodel others. Last month, however, an external review team recommended closing schools, citing a long trend of declining enrollment and projections that drop will continue.


Dr. Bedden asked for administrators and board attorney Pete Fletcher to review records to determine whether the money is being spent as the public asked that it be spent. He said his review found that it is.

-- From staff reports

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AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 04/05/08 - 02:50 am
0
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Dr. Bedden, you just lost my

Dr. Bedden, you just lost my respect with your naive comments. Anyone who was at the school that day knows for fact that non-students were present during this incident and that some parents were also at the school.

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 04/05/08 - 02:55 am
0
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Non-students being inside the

Non-students being inside the school are not new at ARC. I have been told that daily at least 5-10 people are caught roaming the halls during the school's 5th- 7th periods but with only 1 BOE Public Safety officer there full-time. the situation is unable to be dealt with properly. Dr. Bedden stop trying to "Charles Larke" us. We know the truth.

tmptcd63
0
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tmptcd63 04/05/08 - 03:38 am
0
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I'm disappointed in Dr.

I'm disappointed in Dr. Bedden's response.... I thought he'd be different, unfortunately, this move on his part makes him appear to be more of the same.

DeborahElliott2
4
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DeborahElliott2 04/05/08 - 03:46 am
0
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Are you Crazy?? Even in

Are you Crazy?? Even in Michigan, if a gang fight was to start, people would skip out of their school just to go to another one and get into a fight. What college did you say you graduated from?

Just My Opinion
6251
Points
Just My Opinion 04/05/08 - 03:52 am
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Ya'll, I agree about Dr.

Ya'll, I agree about Dr. Bedden and his comments. He screwed up here. The gang task force says there's a gang problem there, so who is Dr. Bedden to say there isn't? If there's only one security officer at that huge school, outsiders can easily come in and cause problems. This just didn't happen over night...the word got out how easy it was to walk in. And please don't anyone mention that the school system needs to direct the teachers to patrol and secure the halls...they've got enough going on just having to teach the hoodlums in the classroom! I really wish the student body themselves would get motivated to police themselves, but it's probably not going to happen, at least not overnight. I think this is all so sad because I graduated from ARC, and this crap surely didn't happen "back in my day" (1979).

dani
13
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dani 04/05/08 - 04:41 am
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"Gangs aren't at Richmond

"Gangs aren't at Richmond Academy, he said, though students who are members of gangs attend the county's historic school."

I haven't had my coffee yet, but what does this mean? I would think if gang members attend the school then they are at the school...

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 04/05/08 - 04:47 am
0
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"Superintendent Dana Bedden

"Superintendent Dana Bedden dismissed the suggestion anyone was on campus who shouldn't have been, saying Friday afternoon that nothing he has seen indicates otherwise."............ Bad move Dr.Bedden don't be an ostrich and don't try to downplay this near riot.....................

" Dr. Bedden called on students to help schools be more proactive.

"I would challenge them to ask ... what are they going to do to help us to make sure we are safe," the superintendent said."......are you kidding?? The thugs that started this are laughing their butts off at you..THEY DO NOT CARE!!! And the ones that do care are too afraid to speak up for fear of being called uhhhh.... "names".

LOLorCRY
0
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LOLorCRY 04/05/08 - 04:53 am
0
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Dr. Bedden definitely has let

Dr. Bedden definitely has let the parents and students of Richmond County down. AugustaVoter is absolutely correct in their observations...my children can attest to it, and I have been hearing their daily feedback of what is going on at ARC for four years....and I have two more years to go. This is a critical safety issue. My children thus far have received excellent educational opportunities, despite the escalating violent episodes. However, disruptions of this proportion are becoming more frequent and the administration, teachers and students are suffering. The RCBOE must be proactive in their response, or they may begin to lose valuable teaching staff and the already scant parental involvement.

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 04/05/08 - 05:31 am
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I also want to add that I

I also want to add that I hope the comments today stay away from racial tones and focus on the real issue at hand. The safety and security at the school. How can we feel safe for our loved ones when outsiders are allowed to freely enter and roam the school while classes are in session? I said this in yesterday's comments and it got pushed away with racist remarks. It only takes one person to "slip" in the door to start a Columbine or Virginia Tech incident. And there are individuals out here who are waiting to find weaknesses to act.

just_my_opinion
0
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just_my_opinion 04/05/08 - 06:00 am
0
0
Perhaps I interpreted it

Perhaps I interpreted it wrong, but it seemed to me that Dr. Bedden was implying that the gangs are not school-based. In larger cities, there are gangs that are based in schools whose members must attend those schools. I think there is a gang problem at ARC because there is a gang problem in Augusta. We didn't have it at the level we do now because of the children coming from all over the county. Now we have students from various rival neighborhood gangs attending the same school. That's asking for trouble.

christian134
1
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christian134 04/05/08 - 06:15 am
0
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The gangs have flourished in

The gangs have flourished in Richmond County, in my opinion, due to the lack of police officers and the lack of parental control along with school police that are not respected or trained well enough to deal with the growing violence. The children are being inducted into gangs as early as elementary school and by the time they reach the age of high schoolers they are either too scared to leave or have been totally reformed to the "code" of the gang. Dr. Bedden has just stepped into a world that has been allowed to grow under the "look the other way" school board of past years. Hang in Dr. Bedden it is going to be a long bumpy ride......

WHATDIDIDO
0
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WHATDIDIDO 04/05/08 - 06:16 am
0
0
What a bunch of B.S. You all

What a bunch of B.S. You all are just looking for a reason to be critical of him. Evidently the majority of you have never lived outside of Augusta. Just my opinion has it right. In your larger cities, the gangs are well established in the schools. Just because you have a bunch of thugs that likes to disrupt the shools, does not mean that there is a problem with gangs. Unlike some of you out there, maybe Dr. Bedden want to wait for all the facts to come in. Did you have someone with the nerves to ask what college he graduated from. Obviously one higher than the one you did. Otherwise, you run for Super the next time the position is open.

sliique
0
Points
sliique 04/05/08 - 06:18 am
0
0
Welllll, I ain't the

Welllll, I ain't the brightest candle on the cake but, after reading what "DR," Bedden said, it's pretty obvious that HE got his Doctorate from a Cracker Jax box!

justputtin
1527
Points
justputtin 04/05/08 - 06:25 am
0
0
This is unfortunately where

This is unfortunately where our society has gone. Augusta and ARC, which used to be a safe school (safer) when I went to HS in the 70's. This is why Col Co flourishes, their schools aren't perfect but are safer in comparison. Good luck fixing this and god bless everyone trying to do so. I hope you can for the kids sake.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 04/05/08 - 06:30 am
0
0
Actually, Hypo I grew up and

Actually, Hypo I grew up and spent most of my formidable years in Dallas/ Fort Worth. (Until I turned 21 and joined the Army) So I speak for what I know... again.

WHATDIDIDO
0
Points
WHATDIDIDO 04/05/08 - 06:36 am
0
0
Wow, so that makes you the

Wow, so that makes you the expert on everything. We all know how great the Texas school system is. Oh, by the way, if you attended a " Government School ", that's not saying much. At least that what PT says. By the way, I joined when I was 17, so do I get a cookie? By the way, thanks to the Dallas?Ft. Worth area, I get to watch new episodes of THE FIRST 48 HOURS, every week.

christian134
1
Points
christian134 04/05/08 - 06:43 am
0
0
Now hold the phone one minute

Now hold the phone one minute Hypo....Don't you dare to put down the great state of Texas or anyone born and raised Texan....I am proud to be counted as a homegrown Texan.....So back down and back off pardner.....:-)....Now that being said back to the topic at hand.....

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 04/05/08 - 06:52 am
0
0
And you make yourself seem

And you make yourself seem like you got your education at Devry or ITT. Don't get me started on the crime rates per capita. DFW only has millions of people in it whereas RC proper has about 1/4 million at best. So I do know what it is like in the big city and I do know what it is like living with real gang problems. I also know what life can be like outside the World of Richmond County. I also know that you are not worth spending anymore of my personal time and energy on. And I don't consider serving in the Merchant marines as worth giving you a cookie for...

WHATDIDIDO
0
Points
WHATDIDIDO 04/05/08 - 07:18 am
0
0
Try Military Police, attached

Try Military Police, attached to the 82nd. Try Gulf War, Grenada, and numerous other missions. I am not here trying to impress your. Your opinions are like ....well I am sure you know where that is headed. Since you are so aware of the problems with gangs in the school system, what are you doing to help. As I stated before, I do not really care what you think of me, I do not base my worth on what you nor anyone else on this site think.

charlie-D
1
Points
charlie-D 04/05/08 - 07:21 am
0
0
Oh no, Dr Bedden, thought you

Oh no, Dr Bedden, thought you were going to be different, guess I was wrong. Appears ti be another one who can talk the talk, but can't make the walk!

dani
13
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dani 04/05/08 - 07:22 am
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It doesn't matter what part

It doesn't matter what part of the country you live in, this behavior is disgusting. There is no excuse. It might happen in every large city several times a day, but that doesn't change the facts-nor does it mean if it is done someplace else, then it must be okay here. The entire episode is utterly and thoroughly disgusting. It's not as if this was two boys or girls having a fist fight on the playground. We claim to be a civilized society...

ConsiderThis
0
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ConsiderThis 04/05/08 - 07:38 am
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Did anyone see yesterday's

Did anyone see yesterday's article titled "Sheriff's Office joins high school brawl investigation?" Another reason to not jump to conclusions until the report is final. "Investigators from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office have been brought in by school officials to try look into Thursday's massive brawl at Richmond Academy." "Members of the sheriff's gang task force have been brought in, in addition to other criminal investigators, but Maj. Autry said it is too early to label the fight as "gang related." It is clear that yesterday they were still investigating the issue.

WHATDIDIDO
0
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WHATDIDIDO 04/05/08 - 07:46 am
0
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everyone be quiet.

everyone be quiet. CHARLIE-[filtered word] will be speaking for all of " US " again today. Go ahead CHARLIE-D.

mystery30815
18
Points
mystery30815 04/05/08 - 07:50 am
0
0
ARC is not the only high

ARC is not the only high school in the area that has non-students walking the hall. In most of the schools non-students can walk in just about any door. If the door is locked students can let them in from the inside. Even schools that have front doors near their front office, unless someone from the office jumps up and runs out to see who it is, they just walk in. Students also use the front doors to change classes sometimes at some schools. Non-students blend in and walk in.

CKB
0
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CKB 04/05/08 - 08:02 am
0
0
I am also offended by the

I am also offended by the obvious lack of knowledge on Dr. Bedden's part. Guess this is a problem when we have someone from outside who does not know the history in Augusta. I still maintain Augusta needs a real "Boot Camp" for these thugs. And I am not suggesting YDC where they can just learn how to do it better the next time.

dinohntr
14
Points
dinohntr 04/05/08 - 08:08 am
0
0
My proposal may sound crazy,

My proposal may sound crazy, but why not make all the public schools like a military style boot camp (Marine Corp style)- with appropriate punishment for trouble makers. It can't all be caused by ADD or ADHT or whatever the latest psychological problem is.

If the parents are not going to discipline their children ( many seem to deligate it to the school anyway), then the schools should be authorized to use draconian means to handle the problem. And parents need to shut their mouths if "poor Johnnie is punished too severly". Maybe "poor Johnnie deserves it". Maybe if they disciplined at home, the student would less of a problem.

Also, I am sure the police know the identities of the gang leaders in the city. Round them up, throw them in jail for a long time - make examples of them.

These ideas may sound crazy, but maybe we need some crazy ideas to take back the schools.

Of course, these ideas come from frustration... frustration from seeing the inmates running the asylum.

kiddspur
2
Points
kiddspur 04/05/08 - 08:16 am
0
0
Any of you complainers

Any of you complainers willing to volunteer to help Dr. Bedeen and the schools out would be greatly appreciated -- it is easy to set back and judge behind a posting name!!!! -- done been in the system and now retired!!!

jack
10
Points
jack 04/05/08 - 08:19 am
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0
Keeping non-students our of

Keeping non-students our of ur schools is not JUST the security officer's job. Teachers, Principals and othet staff members are also responsible. If a person does not leave when told to, 9/11 is on the phone pad.

jack
10
Points
jack 04/05/08 - 08:23 am
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Hypocrap, just how much

Hypocrap, just how much traffic did you direct as a traffic cop during Desert Storm? Must have been real challenging. MP=Military Wussy and no, you don't get a crumb, let alone a cookie. Attached to the 82d-probably as a "leg" (non-parachute qualified).

WHATDIDIDO
0
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WHATDIDIDO 04/05/08 - 08:28 am
0
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IMHO, what is needed is for

IMHO, what is needed is for the Courts to do their jobs. Time after time, these bad asses are allowed to comitt crime after crime and all that is done is that mom and dad, pick their little behinds up and take them home. I believe that any crime that is committed, should result in at least two days at YDC, before coming before a judge. Even if you get probation, at the very least, you should have to spend every weekend of it, in YDC.

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