Three students will no longer attend school in SAD 4

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    GUILFORD — Three Piscataquis Community Secondary School male eighth-graders will no longer be attending school in the district. Superintendent Paul Stearns made the announcement last week, but he declined to elaborate if the students were suspended, expelled or left for another reason.

    “All I can say is three eighth-grade students will no longer be attending school in the district,” Stearns said on March 15.
    One of the three was identified by school officials as a gang member in the “Green Saints.” The gang which school officials believed had between 3-9 members was comprised of seventh- and-eighth graders. The Green Saints had allegedly harassed students for the past two school years. Two eighth-graders — with “peripheral ties” to the “Green Saints” —  are the other students who’ll no longer attend school in the district.
    A recent fight between one of the gang members and another eighth-grader, the Green Saints activities and a suspension of a high school student drew about 20 people to the March 12 SAD 4 board meeting. Several parents complained that district officials were slow in reacting to the gang’s threat to school safety  over the past two years. The parents alleged that the “Green Saints” would approach their children on school grounds asking them to buy weed, smoke weed or consume alcohol.
    Besides the drug and alcohol concerns, one parent also indicated that there was a prostitution ring in grades 7 and 8. Another parent claimed students were afraid to walk the hallways because one of the gang members had made threats to “shank” another student.
    “Shanking” is a prison term describing  a toothbrush’s butt which has been sharpened to form a knife-like weapon.  Another parent, Corey Hill of Abbot, believed the situation had reached the point where school leaders needed to take a tougher stand against student violence.
    “When you have an honor student who is afraid to go to school then you have a problem,” Hill said. “The students aren’t telling you what is going on because they’re afraid. They are telling their parents and I’m here to tell you — we are here to help with this problem.”
    The fight between the two eighth-graders created a heightened tension in the grade 7-12 school. A substitute teacher told the directors that he’s never been nervous about entering a school until then. Steve Maines explained that in the fall he noticed more students going to the nearby woods to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol.
    “There was a major shift on Monday following that Friday fight,” Maines said. “And the kids feel the same way. It is time for somebody to take some action. There has to be some real consequences for this.”
    The parents were also concerned about their children’s safety during a class trip to Boston during April vacation. They indicated that their children would not make the trip if the alleged “gang ringleader” was allowed to participate.
    The parents also believed the school officials had overacted in the suspension of a female high school student who was suspended on March 12. The student used her finger to write “Green Saints” on a friend’s green vehicle in the parking lot. She subsequently apologized to both her friend and school officials, but the suspension was upheld.
    “My daughter did it as joke. You haven’t disciplined any of the gang members, but you’ve decided to make an example of an honor student,” said the student’s mother.
    The superintendent reported that the district had taken precautions in light of the recent violent activity within the school. The district had accepted the County Sheriff’s office offer to patrol the halls for the next two weeks.
    School officials held a grade 7-12 student assembly on March 14 to reiterate school policy against gangs and bullying. The district also ordered high school students to stop mocking younger students who had participated in the Green Saints.
    “The most important thing is to control what we can control,” Stearns said. “Everybody’s got a job to do and we all have to do it.”
    He also said if anyone has information about situations within the school then they needed to report that to a school official. Stearns encouraged people to come forward only if they had direct knowledge about “any potential safety issues.”
    Now that the three students departed the school on a permanent basis, the PCSS hallways seem to have become safer. Stearns indicated the deputy sheriff reported his first day in the school was “rather boring”.

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