Mother of suspended student says she didn’t know about rule

Published 9:00 am Friday, March 4, 2011

COURTLAND—Courtney Jackson calls her 13-year-old son a good kid who simply wanted to help a classmate’s mother as she approached Southampton Middle School with her hands full.

Opening an exterior door to the school to let the woman in earned seventh-grader Chase Jackson a one-day, out-of-school suspension.

The story has drawn national media attention in recent days from Fox News and others.

“He told me, ‘She looked like she needed my help and she said ‘thank-you’ when she saw him,’” Courtney Jackson said.

A former fifth- and sixth-grader teacher in Emporia, she said she was unaware of a new districtwide policy that results in suspension if a student opens an exterior door. The policy was implemented after a $10,800 security system was installed at the middle school, Southampton High School, Southampton Technical Career Center and Nottoway, Meherrin and Capron elementary schools. Riverdale Elementary had a similar system installed when it was built three years ago.

All of the schools’ doors are locked during the day. Visitors must ring a buzzer and look into a camera before office personnel can let them in.

Jackson would like an apology from the school and plans to talk to the School Board about the Feb. 24 incident during the board’s 7 p.m. Monday, March 14, meeting at the Southampton Technical Career Center.

That’s not to say she disagrees with the policy. Jackson, however, doesn’t believe parents were properly informed.

“Not a single one of us doesn’t want our kids to be safe,” she said.

Superintendent Charles Turner said Thursday parents were notified with an Oct. 26 letter sent home with students.

Jackson said she never saw the letter.

“These are 12- and 13- and 14-year-old kids,” she said. “It could end up in the bottom of their book bag, for all we know. You can’t expect these kids to do anything other than they’re supposed to do.”

Turner said students were informed of the consequences and were told not to open doors.

“We continue to remind students of that process,” he said.

Jackson also suggested holding an assembly for students to explain the new policy. They could be informed about what happened to her son.

“That could be used as an example and this is the reason why (he got suspended),” she said. “(They could say) ‘We know you’re all good kids,’ some are generous kids. They’ve been taught that way by their parents. ‘There are people outside with ulterior motives. It’s just that we’re trying to keep you safe.’”

Jackson also recommended posting something on the inside of doors to remind students not to open them.

Jackson on Thursday asked Turner for an apology.

“I wouldn’t say he apologized,” she said. “I never heard an ‘I’m sorry we suspended your child.’”

“I think he believes in his policy, and he should,” Jackson continued. “I agree, if you’re going to put something in place, you should stand behind whatever you decide.”