Video of middle school girls fighting raises question: How should teachers respond?

In this age of smart phones, we are treated to a never-ending stream of murky videos showing allegedly errant teachers.

With the national appetite for titillating news, we are also served up daily accounts of silly decisions by schools, such as the teacher at a private preschool last week who sent a note home reprimanding a mother for packing Oreos in her daughter’s lunch.

I don’t share many of those stories here on the blog as they have no policy implications for any other school, teacher or student. Most accounts of these teachers-done-something-crazy incidents are one-sided. Because of school privacy rules, we only get the outraged parent’s view, which can be summed up as, “My child did nothing wrong. She/he is the victim. The school is at fault.”

Sometimes, the school is at fault, but there’s no way to make an accurate assessment based on a six-second video or the lone account of a student or parent. We need more facts, including what led to the altercation. Parents who tell TV reporters their child was not a threat weren’t in the school and can’t tell us what the teacher or other students felt.

A few years ago, the viral video of the moment showed a middle school teacher dragging a child down the hall. I couldn’t conclude the teacher’s actions were terrible without knowing more. Did the child have a habit of collapsing to the floor and refusing to move? Were classes about to change and put this prone 12-year-old in the path of 200 adolescents in a hurry? Had the teacher tried pleading with the child to get up for 10 minutes and finally lost patience?

If your child drops to a hallway floor and refuses to budge, what do you want the school to do? Leave him there? Get four more teachers and create a human shield so the child is not trampled by classmates?

Until I saw a troubled first-grader in full fury once, I had no idea the physical threat posed by an enraged 7-year-old. In seconds, tables were overturned, chairs thrown and classmates terrified. The teacher had two immediate and competing needs: Protect the other kids, some of whom were crying and cowering, or focus on the offender. Police were not called, but it was not an easy task to safely restrain the child; it required two adults.

The common theme in these viral videos is that schools used too much force to restrain a child, or, in the case of the current drama du jour, too little.

Below is classroom video of a fight in a DeKalb middle school. Watch it for yourself.

Should the teacher have gotten in the middle of the fight between two seventh grade girls? A male teacher once told me those fights are the toughest for him because of the risk of being accused later of an inappropriate contact if he waded into the scuffle. You then risk a second video going viral of a male teacher tussling with an adolescent girl.

Reader Comments 0

119 comments
eulb
eulb

WSB's report left out some facts we need to know.  The main one: how was this fight stopped?   We know the girls did not keep beating on each other until they died.  It was stopped somehow.  Someone took action that was successful.  If you watch the video carefully and stop it at the 0:55 mark, it appears that there are more adults in the room at that point.  The teacher on the phone is not the lone adult.   Then  the video suddenly switches from the classroom to the girls' relatives making their remarks.  We do not see the moments when the fight is ending. 


So how did this fight end?  My best guess is:  The male teacher used his phone to summon help. Female adults then arrived in sufficient numbers to successfully break up this fight between adolescent females.


If that's really what happened, then the teacher was not ignoring the situation while the girls brawled.  He was probably following the procedure required by his administrators.  And it looks like it worked.

ColonelJack
ColonelJack

One of my favorite memories is the day I broke up a fight between two eighth grade boys who were larger than I am.  I got between them as one boy was about to deliver a roundhouse right to the head of the other boy.  He told me later that he saw me and tried - really tried - to pull the punch, but it connected with my face and I went down.  Both boys served a 3-day suspension for the fight, but on the day they came back the one who hit me came directly to my room to apologize.  I told him it wasn't his fault; I put my face in the way of his fist.  But then I added, "Son, if that's as hard as you were swinging, it's no wonder you got your butt kicked."  We both laughed and went on with the year.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Behavior, good and bad, is a learned characteristic.  Years ago, when common sense ruled our schools, students learned at an early age that bad behavior had consequences.  First grade, you act up in class, teacher paddled your butt.  Act up again, you had to go stand in the hall and when the principal made his rounds, if you were standing in the hall, you got your butt tore up again.  The uncontrollable kids were sent to "reform school". 

Those life lessons carried on with the student through high school.

Contrast that with today where the teachers cannot paddle, the administrators wont paddle, if the teacher sends a kid to the office too often, the teacher gets in trouble because she cannot "control her classroom", and everything has to be documented in triplicate.

Act up, nothing gets done, lesson learned.

Speaking of consequences, when I was in high school, you would never see an athlete get in a fight on campus.  Coach preached integrity and honor and when you put on that Letterman's Jacket, you better be on your best behavior.  Also, if you had a problem with another student, you could both go the the Coach and ask to "put on the gloves".

Different era.  We could be that same country again  if people would grow a backbone.

thenoticer
thenoticer

What about how should ADMINISTRATORS respond? It is due to this group that this type of behavior is rampant. Are their hands tied too? Let's get to the root of that and untie them. And by the way, Positive Behavior Reinforcement does not work. Clearly relying on the parents for support is not a possibility.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@thenoticer Administrators gave up on what teaching is about when they took the higher paying job. Don't expect much from them except talk and covering their assets. Since they are not in classrooms they have more time to protect themselves and point the blame to teachers.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

AMERICA ...HELLO...this is what happens in schools across this country every day. Do you like what you see ? Well this is what happens when teacher's authority is undermined and discipline is removed from the school. Get used to it...there is more to come. You should have expected it.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Every classroom should have a large drop net on hand for classroom brawls.


Starik
Starik

@Wascatlady @FIGMO2 I broke up a big dog fight once when I was in the Army...issue a military poncho, the heavy rubber kind to each classroom.  Walk toward the fighters while flapping the big green thing up and down.  It's noisy big and effective.  Or you could issue whips and chairs...

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT for Active Teachers and Retired Teachers in Georgia:


SB 152 was not approved in the combination of the House and Senate Committee Meeting this morning.  This TRS bill will not go forward, this year, with the auditing phase.  

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@MaryElizabethSings 

Hoorah!  But we can all be sure that the legislature will try again, probably next year.


And thanks for keeping us informed. (For those who might complain this is off-topic, all public school employees and about 3/4 of USG employees are TRS members. A great many of them read this blog.)

sptchr
sptchr

Having taught in a middle school where fights were a daily occurrence, I learned quickly not to intervene in a fight between two girls.  They will turn on you in an instant.  You stand back and tell them to stop. Girls don't care who gets hurt and they will not be the first one to quit.  Boys will quit and generally, not hold a grudge.  Girls, never!

Squirrel_Whisperer
Squirrel_Whisperer

Anyone who thinks the teacher should have 'gotten between' the combatants has never tried to break up two middle school girls fighting. And, yes, girls are worse than boys. There is a chance that two boys will stop fighting because a female teacher might accidentally get hit; girls don't care. A boy/boy fight is usually a spur of the moment flash-bang event. A girl/girl fight has been building for a while.

straker
straker

When I was in middle school, years ago, girls acted like young ladies and this sort of thing was unknown.


This is just another example of how much America has gone downhill since then.

Astropig
Astropig

@straker


Agree. I never saw girls fight. Boys went to scrappin' all the time,but girls-never. Something has changed in our socialization of girls.

5150UOAD
5150UOAD

@Astropig girls see girls like Angelina Jolie beat up some huge guy in movies and on TV so these girls think they should be doing the same thing. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @straker I can recall 3 fights during my junior high and high school years (1963-1970).  All boys.  No girl I ever knew would fight with another, but they would gossip and start rumors like crazy!

BchBoy
BchBoy

Since "No Child Left Behind" became law, the students are now running the schools.  


The only way to achieve high graduation rates is to let discipline slide.  If you suspend or expel you will not meet the graduation quota and be labeled a "failing" school.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Discipline is one of the three areas where failing schools are, well, FAILING.  Does it surprise anyone that this is in Dekalb County? If anyone has any videos of kids fighting in East Cobb, I would like to see them.


These two should be immediately EXPELLED and sent to an alternative school (it looks pretty clear that both were fighting and not one beating up the other).  Then a day should be added to the school year to make up for the lost instruction.  This should happen EVERY time there is a fight. 

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

All discipline problems go back to poor administrators and wussy school boards.  A strong disciplinarian sets up a code of conduct, explains the code of conduct to the superintendent, explains the code of conduct to the students, explains the code of conduct to the parents, has them sign papers at the start of the year, and then enforces it.  If lawyers get involved, it's quite simple.  STAND YOUR GROUND and let these local judges have to decide whether or not to put a principal in jail and face the consequences at election, or tell the problem parents to find another school for their children.  All it would take is for one principal refuse to let a thug back into his/her school and tell the judge, "Put me in jail, and let's see who's still has a job six months from now."

Alternative schools are always available.  Unfortunately, principals pay attention to whiny political superintendents, whiny political school board members, and problem parents.  If a strong assistant principal does show up (and they DO exist), the wussy principal never backs him/her.  That's simply because the poorest teachers are usually moved into administrative jobs and easily moves up as they don't cause any political problems... like actually enforce rules and expect students to be at school to learn, or they get them out.


But private schools do just fine WITH STRONG principals!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OldPhysicsTeacher  Well said!


Perhaps a good start-up charter could offer strong discipline - you shape up or you are out of there! And if they don't deliver, parents don't send their kids there and they close.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@OldPhysicsTeacher Unfortunately the alternative schools only go down to 7th grade or so.  We need alternative schools in the elementary grades!

bu2
bu2

@OldPhysicsTeacher 

My junior high had lots of fights.  One warm spring day a friend and I lost count after 35 we personally witnessed (obviously that was an unusual day-but fights were not unusual).


Next year, same group of kids at the high school and I saw one fight all year.  And the kids broke it up quickly.  The difference was the administration.  They didn't put up with stuff and set expectations.


I saw my junior high on TV about 20 years later having a problem with fights.  It had gone from a 70% white middle income school to a 100% minority lower income school and they were still having the same problems.  Only common denominator other than the building-they still had the same principal.




popacorn
popacorn

I'll bet money that no poster/moderator here would ever have their children in this school. They may not admit it or the reasons for it, however. 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@popacorn


You are right, but not everyone should go to private school on the government dime like you want!

5150UOAD
5150UOAD

@JBBrown1968 the Government DIME is more like $12 dollars but they still want more and can't protect or educate OUR Children over policing the RATS.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@5150UOAD


You are too easy!  Rats.........WOW!  Are your children rats or just the poor ones? 

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

About three years ago, I had a situation where one young man tackled another over "silly putty."  The attacking student had his victim on the floor in the corner away from my sight (I was required to be in the hall supervising class transitions).  I was alerted and went immediately and pulled the aggressor off the other student.  I then sent a student to get an administrator and told them (2 showed up) what happened and what I did.  I was told not to worry about what I had done, as I was protecting the victim from further harm.  


The attacker was removed from my class, and eventually from our school when the parent felt we didn't "understand" her son.  



Hesalive
Hesalive

Sorry, these schools are a disaster. God forbid anyone serious about life should end up there. And the teacher's risk life and limb and career to stop theses out of control kids and their ongoing fits of rage. There is no fix to this disaster, except for Jesus.

5150UOAD
5150UOAD

@Hesalive put GOD and CHRISTIAN Concepts back on Government schools it a start.

5150UOAD
5150UOAD

@Intteach ask the black community what they think? Christian concepts are things they say they value and teach...well until theIr baby mama brats are loosed on the public.

Content of Character not Color of skin. Live it, Love It, Teach it. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

I once tried to "step between" two fifth grade girls who were going at each other.  I was punched in the face and knocked to the ground.  The girls did not even blink.  That was the last time I bothered trying to break up a fight between enraged students who outweigh me while they are engaged in fisticuffs.  Another time I intervened when one student was atop another smashing the prone student's head against the hard floor.  I pulled the aggressor off the other student and went to try and help the injured student. The aggressor then picked up a heavy wooden chair and tried to hit me over the head with it. I just managed to duck to the side and he hit my shoulder instead.  The parent threatened to sue because I "touched her baby" and the student was back in my classroom the next day having suffered zero consequences. The lawsuit never materialized. Probably because the parent ended up in jail later that week for prostitution and drug charges.  I have been punched, kicked, bitten and stabbed with pencils while trying to keep students from hurting each other.  I once had a bruise the size of a grapefruit on my hip after being knocked down by an out of control first grader.  


Folks often have difficulty imagining how out of control some children can get.  I have heard folks say things like, "Anyone who cannot control an elementary student does not need to be teaching.  Just pick them up and plop them in a chair!"  

Well, first of all, it is dangerous to just "pick up" an out of control child.  The child will try to wrench away, and could hurt you or him/herself.  Secondly, some elementary students can be pretty large and many of them outweigh their teachers, who tend to be female.  Thirdly, touch a child a you are opening yourself up to a lawsuit.  I even had one parent treated to sue me for "touching their child" when I restrained him to keep him from putting his own foot through a plate glass window!  I suspect if I HAD let the child kick out the glass and get cut up, then I would have been threatened with a lawsuit for NOT stopping the child from harming himself.


And people wonder why we cannot get good people to join this profession.

Astropig
Astropig

@Quidocetdiscit


"Well, first of all, it is dangerous to just "pick up" an out of control child.  The child will try to wrench away, and could hurt you or him/herself.  Secondly, some elementary students can be pretty large and many of them outweigh their teachers, who tend to be female.  Thirdly, touch a child a you are opening yourself up to a lawsuit. "


Wow. Right on cue, there's a story on the front page about a teacher that stuffed an autistic second grader in a trash can,got a free ride in a police car and is kicking back with an administrative suspension as we speak. According to this newspaper,this was witnessed by two parapros and an administrator (which makes it sound pretty one sided). I'd be willing to bet that this teacher is going to need the services of a good lawyer soon.


I agree that a teacher should never touch a child. That's just begging for a lawsuit.

Hope2015
Hope2015

This Particular school I know all to well...because my son is in the 7th grade at that school.... he tells me the bullies are out of control and there are fights there all the time. The girls are just as bad as the boys...I have seen childen walking the halls during class hours when they are supposed to be learning. These kids are OUT OF CONTROL...when my son had a bully problem the parents of the bullies are just as ignorant as thier children and I see exactly why these kids act the way they do. But as I told my son you have every right to defend yourself against a bully.. most of those kids will be in jail

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Hope2015  Who is in control at these schools?  Oh, that's right, the STUDENTS!  The tail wags the dog.

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

As an Educational consultant  for 22 years I have seen this in quite a few "diverse"schools in the Atlanta area over the years, always amazed because teachers are afraid to touch the students

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

In the "old days,"  school was stopped.  The two "fighters" (they used to be boys) were separated and taken to the gym.  the student body was brought to the gym to watch. The PE teacher had the fighters put on gloves and go 3 minute rounds until neither boy could hold his arms up, they shook hands, AND IT WAS DONE.  No police were called, parents were notified (and generally laughed about it) - end of story.  It rarely happened a second time - way too much embarrassment.  If it was serious, they generally handled it on their own after school.   

Now girls fight, and I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts it was over a worthless boy playing one girl against another.  Girls now believe if they don't have a "boyfriend," their sense of worth drops to nothing.  Proper parenting will prevent this... Oh, sorry... that's why they were fighting in the first place - poor parenting.  Maybe home-schooling would be best?

bu2
bu2

@OldPhysicsTeacher 


Yes.  Girls fighting was rare and when they did, it was usually hair pulling, not punching.  And the boys fought "fair."  No hair pulling, no kicking, no weapons.  In middle school the coaches would break it up, walking over with their wooden paddle with holes drilled in it for extra effect.  They'd get sued nowadays and the kids don't fight the same way and don't fear authority.


Periodically, you will read of a teacher dying from trying to break up a HS fight.  They get punched, fall, hit their head and die.  It just needs to be someone who knows what they are doing now.  And in this case, from the video, it didn't look like either girl was doing a lot of damage.

5150UOAD
5150UOAD

teacher stand between the students without touching them and that will stop the fight? Hoe freaking STUPID is that mother. Teachers are not paid enough to RISK their lives. Now you want teachers to break up fights then you might well but these ANIMALS in JAIL where they belong and let them act the fool like they want to do in the first place.

When a kid is raised at home with no respect for authority why would you expect a Teacher to try to instill that in them?

Raise good kids at HOME and this wouldn't be a problem.  

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@5150UOAD 


The term "animal" is such a strong biased term.  If you have children, have they ever had a disagreement with another child and somehow had a confrontation? Maybe not to this magnitude but I am sure that something of the sort has happened.  Does not matter how you have been raised at home.  Even children that have been raised the "right way" at home one day gets into a confrontation at school ( just thankful it does not get to this extreme) like Maureen said...it is what happens with children.  

5150UOAD
5150UOAD

@AnsweredTHIS so then we need to STOP the BS campaign to "Stop Bullying". Bullying happens from childhood until the day we die. Bullying is how the PECKING ORDER is established in all social circles of all species. 

ANIMAL is a strong term but it is appropriate when humans have to resort to their most base instincts. It is not a BAD term either. When a Mom goes ANIMAL/Mama Bear on somebody trying to hurt her child/cub it is good right? 

5150UOAD
5150UOAD

teachers with TASERS and LIGHT their butts up with a few volts.