Haverhill Schools Undertake Review After Reports of Sexual Harassment, Fights, Vandalism

Executive Assistant Beverly McGillicuddy, School Committee member Gail M. Sullivan, Superintendent Margaret Marotta and Assistant Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling at a Haverhill School Committee meeting. (WHAV News file photograph.)

A review of school policies is underway after School Committee members last night discussed reports of sexual harassment, vandalism and fighting at Haverhill High School since going back into session

One problem is a challenge that has gone viral on the TikTok social app. Known as “Devious Licks” encourages students to record themselves stealing and destroying school property and posting a video of their acts. As bad as that may be, School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. said problems go much further.

“There’s the Tik Tok videos, the vandalism, the x-rated videos being shot on school grounds, the violence, the fights. I got more calls from parents and staff members in the last three or four weeks than I’ve got in 18 years sitting here,” he said.

Last week, it was discovered, two teenaged students were recorded in a locker room stall, engaged in a sexual act. That video ended up on TikTok and the incident is now being investigated by the police.

One parent emotionally detailed sexual harassment experienced by her daughter and questioned how the matter was investigated and lack of concrete action taken. Every member called the behavior unacceptable. Member Toni Sapienza-Donais, among others, questioned whether staff understand their roles and responsibilities. The Policy subcommittee, chaired by member Gail M. Sullivan, plan to review the matter at a meeting already planned for today.

A number of fist fights on school grounds were also reported this week. Among them, an eight-person brawl that included members of the high school football and basketball teams. High School Principal Jason Meland was asked what discipline was being meted out to those involved.

“So we’re working with the coaches for the consequences for our scholar athletes. All the individuals involved were sent home yesterday afternoon and we held disciplinary hearings with each of them and their families this morning,” he said.

Some members said they did not find the resolution satisfactory as Wood summed up.

“First of all, we always should be holding our student athletes to a higher standard. In my opinion, I don’t need the coach to tell me that there should be a zero-tolerance policy. You lose your right to be on the basketball team, to be on the football team. I don’t care if you’re the star quarterback or who you are. There’s consequences for your actions,” he said.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta told the Committee she has been spending most of her days at the high school this past week. Despite the recent fights, she believes things are improving, but there is also a shortage of security help. “We are having a difficult time hiring security guards. I thing that we are down to three. We recently picked up one. We need two additional security guards there at this point,” she said.

Member Paul A. Magliocchetti responded he is certain the School Committee is willing to provide help in any form needed to make certain students and staff feel safe.

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