Set aside any questions about who is right and who is wrong in an altercation between the principal of Grovetown Middle School and a Columbia County bus driver who accuses her of simple battery.
When a dispute between two employees is bad enough that one of those workers heads to the police department instead of the front office, there's a serious in-house problem with employee relations. And that's where school officials should focus their scrutiny.
There is fault on both sides in the Sept. 6 incident. The fallout started when bus driver Pam Albright stopped at Harlem Middle School, where Grovetown Middle is housed until its new campus is completed. The kids on Albright's bus were out of control, and she needed help.
Grovetown Middle Principal Carolyn Fries, a 27-year education veteran, took over, herding the students off the bus and into a classroom. Fries wouldn't let Albright join them, though, and during a brief standoff, Albright says Fries grabbed her by the arm, escorted her from the room and told her you are the cause of all this, according to the police report filed after the incident.
Albright told police her arm was bruised as a result, and she accused Fries of simple battery, a misdemeanor. Fries later was arrested, and released after posting $1,050 in bond.
This brouhaha should have never gotten that far. But then Albright should never have lost control of her students, and should not have questioned Fries when told to leave the meeting room. And Fries - while clearly authorized to give Albright the boot - should have kept her hands to herself. Failing to do so has allowed a minor spat to become a black eye for a couple of valuable employees and the school system.
The central office, for now, is siding with Fries, and that makes sense. The fact that Albright couldn't handle her kids boosts Fries' case for shutting Albright out of the disciplinary meeting. And once Albright had been asked to leave, she should have gone quietly rather than turn her ejection into a confrontation.
the central office's support of Fries rightly reinforces the philosophy that principals are in charge of their campuses. But her arrest, no matter how the case eventually turns out, is a reminder of why children are prohibited from using physical force when they disagree with a peer.
So, those kids - steeped in lessons about conflict resolution - may be able to suggest a way out of all this without clogging the court system with a petty spat: Can't we just settle it on the playground?
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