Boca Ciega High School: 180-Degree Change

Boca Ciega High School: 180-Degree Change
“It’s been phenomenal,” School Resource Officer (SRO) Steven Beltran said of the school year. “It’s a complete 180 from where it was to where it is now. Awesome.”

The Gulfport officer, one of two assigned to Boca Ciega High School, is talking about the difference at Boca Ciega High since prinicipal Michael Vigue took the helm at the start of the school year.

“A lot has to do with the administration,” Officer Beltran says. “They don’t have as many distractions, so they can focus on the issues at hand, which are student behavior and education.”

Students and teachers alike have noted the difference, and they credit Vigue for the change.

While Officer Beltran credits Vigue and the administration for the changes, he added that some of the changes came from the new building, too. Students walking outside between classes in the old open-air hallways, he said, may have encouraged rowdier behavior. Now that the students stay mostly inside, he says he thinks they’re more calm.

The numbers show a decrease on certain issues as well. In the 2010-2011 school year, the two SROs dealt with 28 fights or reported incidences of “disorderly conduct.” This past school year, SROs responded to 11. Last year, the school had 61 cases of “trouble with a juvenile” but over the past school year, officers received only 18 such calls. Battery fell from 16 counts to five.

“We’re still dealing with kids,” Officer Beltran says, but says that things like fights “are significantly lower than in the past.”

He calls “Facebook issues” the “biggest catalyst for on-campus disruptions.” Someone says something on Facebook and someone else responds; before you know it, he says, everyone involved gets upset over the incident and the anger spills over into the hallways of the classroom. If he or fellow officer Jason Motte know about the trouble before it turns into a brawl, they can step in and diffuse the situation.

“We do a lot of counseling and mediation,” Officer Beltran says. “A lot of the things we do don’t make into the computer.”

He says that while incidences increased over the past year, things have improved even more over a few years ago.

“Three, four years ago, it was hectic,” he recalls. Officer Beltran has worked as the SRO at Boca Ciega High School for five years. When he started, he says, “It was bad. This year Mr. Vigue was able to tighten all the screws down.”

What would make next year even better? Officer Beltran says more parents can go a long way towards making Boca Ciega High School even better.

The school needs “more parent involvement with kids and with the school,” he says. Parents, he adds, “ [need to] assume responsibility for their children.”
Read more from: Gulfport News