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Combating more violence

Interrupted year seen as factor in fighting as students return

December 17, 2021


Elijah Paden and Cuyler Dunn

An increase in fighting at LHS has spawned concerns about the role that student fight culture can play in the issue.

With the return of all students this year, hallways have become zones for fighting as well.

At the start of the year, conflicts were believed to have been more violent and greater in number than those seen before the COVID-19 pandemic sent students online. 

“Some of it is just getting back into civilization again, getting back into a routine of being in a community, instead of in your room, and it’s just you and a computer screen,” associate principal Mark Preut said.

From the beginning of the school year to the end of October, LHS administrators reported eight fights and 14 suspensions related to fighting or violence against peers, according to information shared following an open records request by The Budget.

The increase has been noticeable.

“It was more in the beginning of the year, but even now, freshman year was no where close to this many,” junior Chase Mondi said.

Freshman Bryndal Hoover said she thinks the uptick is a result of students being back.

“A lot of people are used to doing whatever they want, most of the time, because we were on the online, everything like that,” Hoover said. “And small fights with people and drama is going to start once you hit high school, especially with the new freshmen coming from eighth grade. So I’ve seen a lot of fights break out with freshmen, but also with older classmen.”

Staff and administrators cited several possible reasons for this increase, one being the lack of socialization many students experienced over the past year of virtual learning. 

USD 497 mental health facilitator Jose Cornejo emphasized this idea, adding that other challenges individuals are facing can make conflict-resolution situations more difficult. 

“I think some of the challenges that we’re seeing is just that social piece of ‘how do I interact with people again?’ because I was so offline for about 18 months,” Cornejo said. “Some of us have a greater capacity to handle conflict or loss than others right now.”

Preut noted the concerning nature of the fights this school year. 

“Usually when adults step in, things deescalate and they stop,” Preut said, noting that hasn’t always happened this year.  “So there’s some behaviors that are atypical and pretty alarming.”

Lawrence High School administration deals with conflict that takes place in the building through security listening for and intervening with early stages of conflict and recent ongoing staff training in restorative justice practice. 

Principal Jessica Bassett believes one way to minimize conflicts at school is through “relationship building and interpersonal and intra-personal development,” she said. “As students make connections with staff… and with other students, they begin to respect themselves, others and their environment.”

Following fights, administrators and staff are working toward fostering connective conversations between involved students. 

“When students return from their consequence, they have restorative conversations with administrators or other staff,” Bassett said. “In the future we hope to be able to get the people from the opposing sides at the table to have restorative conversation and dually seek ways to repair the harm.”

Factors in fights

It doesn’t take long after a fight breaks out for videos of it to be shared.

For years, fighting has been an issue that has plagued LHS, and one that is fueled by a culture that glorifies them. This culture lies in the entertainment value students find in both from watching them from the halls and circulating videos around the students body.

Security guard Danny Boone-Salazar often has to break up fights and is familiar with the student culture around them. When faced with fights, he notes that many students stop to film rather than intervene or contact teachers.

“Nobody wants to help anybody,” Boone-Salazar said. “Somebody could be getting hurt, and all they want to do is pull out their phone and record. That’s really concerning, especially the part where you don’t want to stop and help out another human that needs your help.”

When fights are filmed, it can have a direct impact on the severity of the violence itself.

“Once you know that you’re in the limelight, you’re going to do a little bit more,” he said.

Many problems this year, he said, seem to lie with underclassmen, who are less familiar with the school.

Nobody wants to help anybody. Somebody could be getting hurt, and all they want to do is pull out their phone and record. That’s really concerning, especially the part where you don’t want to stop and help out another human that needs your help.”

— Danny Boone-Salazar

“For the most part our seniors do set a pretty good example,” he said. “The underclassmen just need to open their eyes and see what everybody else is doing.”

He called on students empathize with their peers.

“A lot of people want to see fights,” he said, “but at the end of the day nobody actually wants to be the fighter.”

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