Columbus City School parents claim new district policies leaving kids unsafe


Weeks before the start of the next school year, parents question new Columbus City School district policies that they fear leave their kids unsafe.

Jennifer Cygan contacted ABC 6's Scoring Our Schools team after she said her daughter's hair was set on fire during lunch at Indianola Middle School. She said the boy who did it was able to stay in class.

" Her clothes could have set on fire," Cygan said. "I don't think I can make it serious enough to the administration that they were very lucky that nobody got hurt."

Cygan's daughter Livy got into Indianola through a lottery system, makes good grades and plays for the school's volleyball team. Livy told Scoring Our Schools that the boy came up behind her in the cafeteria, flipped him lighter and singed pieces of her hair. She made a statement to the school about the incident which was also captured on the school's surveillance cameras. She said she saw actual flames in the footage.

"It blew up," Livy said. "I saw it blow up. It blew up."

After several weeks, Livy also saw her attacker return to class and remain in close proximity to her. Cygan spoke with the principal herself.

"His words to me were this boy is going to get the help that he needed," Cygan said. "I thought that meant he was going to be disciplined and not be around my daughter anymore."

The district would not disclose the punishment Livy's attacker received as they are prohibited by law. Scoring Our Schools pulled the disciplinary data from Indianola reported to the state which lists no expulsions. It also indicates the number of suspensions dropped by 48% from the 2015/2016 school year to the 2016/2017 school year which is the most recent information available.

Beyond the middle school, suspensions also dropped in 12 of the 19 Columbus City high schools within the same time frame. East High School's suspensions cut by 41% with expulsions going to zero. the 968 suspensions at Linden-McKinley were still an 18% drop from the year before. Walnut Ridge saw a 45% decrease.

"It's a district wide expectation that we try to keep our students in class," said interim superintendent Dr. John Stanford. "Students are better off in the classroom and learning than they are out of school."

Livy said her attacker never apologized and she fears he will strike again. Cygan said if that happens, she will file a report with Columbus Police.

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