15 students arrested after protest at Polk County school, district vows to address concerns

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Tension bubbled over into protests – and later, more than a dozen arrests – at Kathleen Senior High School on Monday.

After hearing reports of the protests on social media and through school alerts, parents showed up at the school in the morning to take their children home.

“I get it. They want to make a statement, but there’s a way to go about it and this isn’t it,” said Tracie Coccia, who picked up her daughter.

Students protested against new policies under the new principal, Daraford Jones.

“I guess the new principal’s trying to enforce new rules that the kids aren’t happy with,” Coccia said. “Also the homecoming dance, they can have a homecoming dance but it’s gotta be jeans – no dress up, no dancing with the other students.”

News Channel 8 reached out to Principal Jones for comment and has yet to hear back.

“We want you to know that district staff are reviewing the situation at KHS and will work with stakeholders to make sure concerns are addressed. As a precaution, we also plan to have additional law enforcement on campus tomorrow,” Polk County Public Schools wrote in an update to parents Monday evening.

“This school is very unorganized and they need someone that can put it back into organization,” said Jinola Cleve, a grandparent.

The Monday morning protest resulted in students being arrested, according to Polk County Public Schools.

“Although this morning’s demonstration was largely peaceful, some students were arrested for causing a disruption that interfered with the school’s ability to operate,” Kyle Kennedy with Polk County Public Schools media relations wrote in a statement.

A total of 15 students were arrested, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Twelve were charged with disruption of a school function and resisting an officer without violence while two were charged with affray. One was charged with disruption of a school function, resisting an officer without violence, giving a false name to law enforcement and possession of a weapon on campus.

At least one parent thinks the school is in need of new rules.

“They should add structure and if they don’t want to abide by it, then they should not come to school anymore. That’s why crime is the way it is because kids are growing up to do what they want to do,” said Aaron Cohen, the father of a child with special needs.

Cohen said he will be sending his child back to private school.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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