Fighting inevitable, linked to community

February 19, 2020

Fights can seem like a daily occurrence in the halls of Central. But, unless you’ve been in one, the thought process of fighting can seem foreign.  

Principal Ed Bennett sees fighting in school as an extension of the community. 

“When events happen in the community, whether it’s the social media community or the general community, school is a place where kids who are in conflict are going to meet up,” he said. “Oftentimes since this is where they meet up, this is where they fight.” 

For freshman Jordan Stacy*, fighting wasn’t her idea. 

“Her friend had gotten jumped and I was like ‘well why wouldn’t [she] step in and help her out?’” Stacy recalled. “Somehow, everyone had found out that I had said this, and, obviously, rumors had twisted the story, and she took offence. So, she was just like ‘I’m tired of you’, and she was just like ‘we’re going to fight.’” 

Stacy described her opponent as an “acquaintance” from middle school who already didn’t like her. Bennett claims that a phrase that comes up after nearly every fight is “they used to be friends.” 

Stacy’s opponent had given her a time and place for the fight: after fourth hour on the first floor where everyone could see. 

“So, I walked out, and her friend had had her hood on and stuff, so I didn’t even know who I was going to fight at the time,” Stacy said. “Then [the other fighter] just came down and I was so confused about what was going on, but then she throws down her backpack and she just starts speed walking towards me.” 

Even though she didn’t really want to fight, Stacy wasn’t going to say no or back down. 

“I think it’s either fight or flight and I’m personally not the type of person to run away from things,” she said. 

After that fight, the administration ruled it a mutual conflict and gave Stacy a five-day suspension. 

Stacy found the punishment a bit unjust, claiming she was “just defending [her]self.” 

“You could tell who the victim was in the situation, but I understand that they said that OPS doesn’t allow you to play who-did-it,” she said. 

Five days is the standard suspension time for fighting in the OPS Code of Conduct.  

However, Bennett said, “There have been times where what looks like a fight is actually an assault. In situations like that, we sometimes do look at the person who fights back and fights back to defend themselves. So, they may face a different consequence. But every case is different.”  

Right after her suspension, Stacy found that she was being treated differently 

“There were a few people that I heard whispering about it, or they came up and asked me about it,” she recalled. “I kind of prepared myself for that, knowing that a lot of people were there, and it was posted everywhere on social media.” 

Bennett feels that likely 95 percent of fights have some tie to social media, and that this can lead some adults to think fighting in school is a modern issue. This is just not true. Bennett had a discipline book from the 1917-1918 school year, 102 years ago. This little red book was littered with the rabble-rousers of the 20th century. One entry read “Thurston Logan: trouble in 215”. 

If teenagers have been fighting for as long as there have been teenagers, what’s the connecting thread? Likely, it’s brain chemistry. 

“Adolescents, their frontal lobe is not fully developed, so reasoning skills aren’t fully developed,” Bennett said. “Students, kids, are much more likely to give into impulse and engage in fights.” 

Bennett encourages students who feel like fighting to seek help from a trusted adult. 

“Typically, that’s their counselor or, more typically, it’s their administrator,” he said. “Administrators spend a lot of time working on preventing these types of situations.” 

*Student’s name has been changed to protect her privacy. 

 

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