South East Junior High reviews proper behavior with students after negative community reports

In response to negative community reports on students’ misbehavior, South East Junior High staff is reviewing with students to reduce misconduct.


Grace Kreber

Southeast Junior High School is seen in Iowa City on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.

Simone Garza, News Reporter

Iowa City’s South East Junior High administrators and Iowa City officials are hoping student support and community building will help address a run of reported poor behavior by students after school hours.

Students were reported for misbehaving at Mercer Park and the Mercer Park Aquatic Center, with an increased frequency at the beginning of the year. The junior high staff is currently reviewing with students to give them support and help address the issues, Iowa City South East Junior High principal Michelle Cook said.

“We spent four days at the start of the trimester reviewing, instead of focusing on a lot of academics… a restorative circle here at school about what it means to be a good community partner,” Cook said.

She said the school has seen an increase in anxiety and stress, and a decrease in students equipped with real-world problem-solving skills.

“We realized quickly that we need to pivot and a lot of our emphasis in school needs to be on culture, climate, social, emotional behavior, and health, and really taking care of our kids,” Cook said.

Brad Barker, City of Iowa City recreation superintendent, said that community members have reported students for misbehaving in Mercer Park and the Mercer Park Aquatic Center since the beginning of the school year.

“A lot of the behaviors that were happening is what you would typically expect middle schoolers to be participating in, which would be just a lot of just kind of pushing and kind of being disrespectful towards each other,” Barker said.

Barker said the school has dealt with more issues than in past years and sees more reports being made in the fall rather than the spring because students haven’t seen each other much over the summer.

“They’re getting back together and for better or for worse, they’re either hanging out or they’ve got some issues with one another,” Barker said.

According to the Iowa City Press Citizen, recent incidents have also been reported from Hy-Vee, Kum & Go, and CVS. Reports usually involve shoplifting, physical altercation, and verbal abuse.

RaQuishia Harrington, Iowa City recreation supervisor of inclusive recreation and underserved populations, said that the department has incident reports to help identify who was involved in those encounters.

“Staff does a really good job of trying to follow up with them and form a relationship with them,” Harrington said.

Harrington said her department tries to provide students as much information as possible and continues to build relationships with them to continue to make school a safe and enjoyable place for them to be.

Cook said that a lot of parents were not even aware that their kids were spending so much time in Mercer Park or surrounding areas.

“Junior high is kind of when kids start to be more independent, and parents aren’t always aware of where their kids are going,” she said.

Cook said the school started calling around to local businesses and the Iowa City government on how they could help resolve this issue.

Cook said that factors such as the pandemic, social injustice, and financial insecurity may also be the cause of students’ heightened unwanted behavior.

“We care about our kids,” Cook said. “We don’t want them getting in trouble, we don’t want there to be negative interactions.”