Students will return to KIPP Renaissance High School on Monday after security concerns led to an unexpected two-day shutdown immediately before Mardi Gras break.
On Feb. 11, 450 ninth- through 12th-grade students were sent home after some students refused to cooperate with a new school security policy, KIPP spokesman Jonathan Bertsch said.
Some students objected to the procedures, which included metal detectors, bag searches and requests from security guards for students to pull clothing or waistbands away from their body.
“It was a situation where there were a number of students that were not entering the school,” Bertsch said. “I think having students that are out and not following the procedures created an unsafe situation.”
Bertsch said the administration decided to dismiss school early that Wednesday and cancel it altogether on Thursday, the last scheduled day before Mardi Gras break. Despite what he called an “unsafe situation,” the New Orleans Police Department was not called.
The school, housed in the former Sarah T. Reed High School building at 5316 Michoud Blvd. in eastern New Orleans, did open for parents and students to come in and discuss the situation and new policy.
The extent of the new procedures is not clear.
A one-page letter was sent home with students on Feb. 6 explaining that starting Feb. 9, anyone seeking to enter the school would be subject to metal detectors and bag searches.
Asked recently, KIPP officials said they could not provide a copy of the new policy. They did provide a copy of the cellphone policy distributed at the beginning of the school year, which requires all cellphones to be turned in at the beginning of each day.
The letter to parents also stated that the new entrance policy would help with cellphone collection because any “contraband” found in bags would be confiscated.
Bertsch said the change was spurred by requests from parents.
“Throughout the last several months, we’ve had requests from families, from parents that we implement a different sort of school entry procedure,” he said. “Ninety-six percent of families that we spoke to were in favor of the new policy.”
Bertsch said security personnel and KIPP staff members performed the searches last week.
“In some cases, a student may be asked to pull clothing away from their body perpendicularly, which would cause a banned item to fall if it were concealed behind a belt, for example,” Bertsch said. “In no cases are students asked to lift clothing to allow for a visual inspection.”
Monday will begin with an hourlong session for students to discuss what happened and why the new policy has been implemented, Bertsch said.