A Look At School Altercations And Why They Are On The Rise

It is not an uncommon sight in the halls of North Central. People yelling, more than usual. A group congregating around something. Teachers, students, and police running towards the yelling. Phones out and recording.

These are the signs that a fight is taking place. It seems like, recently, these things are being seen more and more. But this is not a problem that North Central is facing alone.

ChildTrends.org reported that one in four, or 24 percent, of high school students, in 2017, reported being a physical altercation of some kind at school.

Male students reported being in fights 13 percent more, 30 to 17. This was consistent across age and race.

“Immaturity. Inability to communicate. Inability to articulate one’s emotions and feelings other than through aggression,” Principal Evans Branigan III said.

The most common, with 55 percent, reported reason for high schoolers fighting is feeling as though someone has insulted them. This was followed up by an ongoing feud at 44 percent, someone was hit, pushed, or shoved before the fight at 42 percent, and someone believed another student had spread negative rumors about them at 40 percent.

Only a reported 19 percent of fights where over a boyfriend or girlfriend

Most people would think that events outside of oneself, like disputes over relationships or perceived attacks of character, are the main causes of fights among students. However, some, like Brannigan, believe that there are other issues and influences that can cause some students to want to put their high school career in jeopardy.

“We are talking about certain behaviors that parts of our subculture that are celebrated,” Branigan said.

Experts say that society has been come far more relaxed in what is put into the media, as movies, tv shows and music have become more aggressive and violence-praising. This fact would surely mean that the number of teenagers fighting would also.

This is not the case. While society and its media may have been becoming more violent, the number of teenagers fighting is actually in a slow decline.

About 43 percent of US high school students reported being in some kind of physical altercation in 1991. While still being a startlingly high number, this is the highest it would ever be. In 2005, it was 36 percent, and in 2011, it was 33 percent

As of 2017, the number of students who have reported as having been in a fight is down to 24 percent, the lowest it has been in over 20 years.

Even though fighting at school should be a primary concern of schools across the country, there are other problems that arise during and after the fight that schools are having a harder time of clamping down on: the students around the fight recording it.

“That’s the culture,” Branigan said. “The culture of being the videographer who puts it one Facebook or Twitter or social media, because vicariously, they feel empowered to put something up there, not realizing the additional damage they are doing to the school.”

Branigan believes that wherever the fight takes place, it damages the reputation of the facility, in this case North Central, whether it be at a school sponsored event or while school is in session.

One recent case of the physical confrontations at North Central damaging the schools reputation was the fight that took place late last school year. The fight that broke out between 10-12 people in the cafeteria. Because of the outrageous number of students who took part in the altercation, local news channels picked up the story, displaying in their news pieces student-shot footage of the fight.

Branigan also believes that the constant filming of altercations at North Central also harms the reputations of the students involved.

“The student that ran to [the fight]and put it out there,” Branigan said, “had a total disregard for the aggressors privacy, if you will.”

Branigan goes on to point out that the school never releases the names of the students involved in altercations at North Central. If the names are ever discovered, they are most likely found through student posting on social media about the fight.

While altercations at North Central can be a small inconvenience to other students, there was a recent dispute that ended up being a first for the school: the first fight to involve pepper spray.

The addition of pepper spray to a fight at North Central brings on another level of possible harm to students, a sentiment which Branigan echoed.

“I am more disappointed than mad. I am more disappointed in the young people,” Branigan said. “How selfish that one would be willing to possibly hurt not only the person they are in conflict with, but also hurt the bystanders. Also hurt the teachers. Total disregard for any inconvenience or health concern.”

Ian McCormick

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