At any high school, it is seldom an uncommon event to see students gathered around in a circle by the cafeteria, making a spectacle out of physical confrontation. Some students at Lebanon High School believe that there has been a recent increase in school violence in February of 2020. With LHS’s zero-tolerance policy for fighting, how many fights are too many, and how do we go about solving the problem?
From https://www.theclassroom.com/reasons-school-fights-6046423.html, there are many factors that can take part in why school fights are so common. Among those include:
- Differing values
- Lack of respect
- Reputation maintenance
- Pop culture influence
Students at LHS were polled and responded on whether or not they believe that violence is a detrimental issue in the school. The results showed that out of 70 LHS Students, 19 people voted that school violence was an issue, where 51 people responded that it was not.
School Resource Officer Craig Richie has noticed an uptick of violence at Lebanon High School over the past couple of months, but he assures that although it is not tolerated, it is normal occurrence for most school environments.
“Fights usually come and go in waves. And afterwards, when you talk to whoever is involved, it usually it has nothing to do with school. It is usually something that happens outside of school. A lot of the time, nothing leads up to it, and it is just a spur of the moment thing,” said Richie.
Richie brought up the concept of mob mentality—or the tendency for people to be influenced by their peers to behave a certain way—In order to explain why there are periodical spikes of physical altercations within schools.
“It is human nature,” Richie said.
Richie stressed the importance of self-defense, making clear that anybody has the right to defend themselves if confronted with physical conflict. He also believes that there are certain lines to be drawn when it comes to self-defense.
“At the moment, you are always welcome to defend yourself. However, if there is an opportunity to disengage, you are expected to do so. We understand that there is a fine line, and we understand that nobody should take a beating. There is always that time when you can distance yourself. We try to look at any altercations from both sides,” Richie said.
Officer Richie and health teacher Ryan Tucker have introduced a seminar that is being taught in freshman health classes that is geared towards handling and resolving conflict in a healthy way.
School Nurse Jackie McNutt is in charge of assessing injuries resulting from any violent confrontation that takes place at LHS.
“Fighting here means pushing, shoving, and getting knocked down to the floor. It is never broken limbs or black eyes or anything like that,” McNutt said.
McNutt, in part, blames seasonal depression for the increase in violence that has happened over the past few weeks in February 2020. She believes that the constant fluctuation of the weather is causing people’s emotions to become off-balance. No matter what the cause is, though, McNutt makes it clear that her involvement is strictly medical.
“I never know what is going to roll into this office, so I have to take whatever comes and deal with it. When students are amped up on adrenaline, my first approach is to get them to calm down. I let them come down on their own and make sure everything is under control. My job is medical, and I do not need to know the drama. My first priority is to ask if the student is hurt. If there are visible injuries, I will take photos of those injuries for the parents or the doctors just in case,” McNutt said.
Senior Drew Cosgray, who is on the leadership team for Student Ambassadors, maintains that maturity and responsibility factor into the issue.
“It is that point of the school year where a lot of people are ready for it to be over, and they are annoyed and more on-edge. Some of the comments that are made at them might make them a little more angry, causing them to act unnecessarily. I think it is up to the students to be mature and to be aware that they should not get into fights at school, because the administration can only do so much,” Cosgray said.
Cosgray suggested that a possible solution would be an increase in school assemblies to raise more awareness about school violence.
The administration stresses the importance of gaining perspective from every party involved in a violent altercation in school. They stress the importance of giving every student a voice, no matter the circumstances.
“I hope it makes them feel valued as a person, yet recognizes they have been in a fight, and we have to deal with it, but still helps them realize that I want to treat them with as much dignity as I can,” McNutt said.
Assistant Principal William Gee is also aware of the importance of perspective and seeing emotional situations from every angle possible.
“There are a number of conflicts that we try to resolve that probably would turn into a fight if we did not validate and deal with the students. I think the conflict stems from a communication issue, as well as a self-respect and respect for others issue. Every so often, when we are able to neutralize something, it helps to be a mediator and talk to each student to increase communication. Sometimes it is beneficial to sit people down just to talk things out,” Gee said.
Since every person is different, Gee feels as though it is important to not push one method of solving conflict, but rather tailoring each approach to the conflict to benefit the people involved.
“Things like home life, things that kids have been exposed to, tolerance for others, ability to filter emotions are all factors that determine how people deal with conflict. We all have thoughts that are not right, and whether we choose to express them or not I think is a major factor,” Gee said.
Gee admitted that resolving conflict can often go back to simple life lessons such as ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’ or ‘keep your hands to yourself’.
“I really think it all comes down to: Are we respecting others, communicating effectively, treating people right, sticking to the core values of PRIDE? I think those things can still be worked through at the high school age. I think we as people can change, and we constantly need to be working on ourselves. Instead, sometimes what we are all too focused on is working on other people,” Gee said.