Opelousas Junior High School Principal Dr. Monica Fabre is speaking out ONLY to KATC after there were two arrests on her campus this week for students with weapons.
"I think about my safety, the safety of others because at the end of the day, I'm charged with keeping everyone safe," Fabre said.
She said though it's important for everyone to feel safe on campus, the focus can't be only on the weapon or fights. Fabre said she understands the challenges her students and teachers are facing on campus.
"I wasn't supposed to make it. You know why? I was Messy Monica. All I did was fight. I fought, fought, fought. Somebody believed in me and helped my parents with me. They told me I could be anything that I wanted to be. I started believing in myself," Fabre said.
This week, administrators say a student brought a gun on campus. Another student is accused of bringing a knife on campus and was Tased by police.
Chris Welty asked Dr. Fabre if she feels safe on campus. She said, "That's like asking me if I feel safe in Wal-Mart of if I feel safe going to church. If we analyze all of the things happening in the world... you've had shootings in churches and bus stations. However at a school, we should not have those fears."
Fabre said right now, she's in the trenches and believes her school needs specialized care.
"I have to see beyond the gun, beyond the knife, but I still have to see the gun and the knife," Fabre said. "If anyone says you shouldn't be afraid then you're asking me not to be human."
She said she's working with students, staff and parents to identify the top five security concerns at the school and how to address them. Fabre said a high power calls her to continue pushing to make a change. She's been on the job at OJH for four months and said she and her staff are on a mission to uplift not only the students, but the community as well.
"We have to look at it holistically because when that happens, you can't blame the school and in some cases not even the parents. You have to look at the trauma and how the child lives," Fabre said.
She realizes the issues her school is dealing with are issues districts across the nation are trying to handle. She believes in order for things to change, leaders have to look at a much bigger picture.
Fabre encourages parents to talk to their kids about bullying, fighting and the dangers of weapons.
"I need to be able to see and put practices in place, continue research, really help the children that are struggling and help the communities we're in," Fabre said.
The principal said she is getting push back from some in her profession because she does not want to always suspend students when they do something wrong.
"I'm not coming here to yell and scream at these kids and make them feel like they're prisoners," Fabre said. "I'm not going to spank them with the paddle, that's the most violent thing. I'm going to love them and there's nothing anyone can do about it."
She hopes working with them to create meaningful learning experiences and having an open door policy will change the culture. In her office, there's a wall of photos and quotes, all with a story and lesson.
"So, when my children need redirection, I don't do it the traditional way. I bring them in and I have them find a quote that they can relate to," Fabre explained. "You see, it's still discipline. It's still redirection, but it's not written on a referral form. That form is part of the school to prison pipeline. You can do the same thing in a different way. It's discipline with dignity. I ask my students to go back and write their own story."
OJH does not have a fulltime resource officer, but the police department has recently stationed four officers on campus. The principal says it's partnerships like this that will improve the school's climate. Fabre is also calling on parents and community leaders to do their part to be good role models for students.
Opelousas Junior High is encouraging parents and students to fill out a survey to help identify the school's top five safety concerns. The school is also planning a safety meeting on Wednesday, March 4 at 5:00 in the school cafeteria.
"I know I might not be politically correct, but you definitely can't teach who you can't reach," said Fabre. "I can't reach my students if I don't love them and even when they want to give up on themselves I have to say stay the course."