When an Insta-fight turns physical: The implications of PV’s altercation
November 11, 2019
An altercation broke out between two students in the commons area of PV’s high school. The altercation originated on social media however became physical. While the rumor mill started to spin about what happened, students are now searching for a clear answer. While reactions were different among peers, everyone seems to question what the appropriate reaction would have been.
The administration’s report
An altercation in the student commons of Pleasant Valley High School required Bettendorf Police presence on Wednesday morning.
High school administration said the disturbance was the result of several arguments over Instagram between numerous individuals, many of which were being posted during school hours.
Principal Darren Erickson commented on what appeared to be the start of the fight when, “students [were] going to verbally confront each other.” Erickson was not in the vicinity when the altercation began, but other staff members took immediate action.
The altercation became physical when one individual entered the commons looking for another student. Erickson said, “I do not know how many punches were thrown and by who, but there were some.” The school is still trying to investigate everyone’s role in Wednesday’s event.
During the incident in the commons, a main office secretary was asked to make an announcement that would require all students to remain in their classrooms for an extra five minutes; the request was reversed before it took effect due to the administration’s ability to defuse the situation. Erickson commented, “We got lucky,” when referring to the fast action of the supervisors.
Erickson reported that no one was injured during the altercation.
Erickson believes the situation was largely due to the impact of social media. “If we see a face-to-face confrontation in the building, we can address it, but we don’t know what people are texting, Snapchatting, or Instagramming,” he said.
Social media has changed the modern ability to communicate significantly. Erickson added, “It is much easier to say something through a screen rather than face-to-face.” Oxford University reported that 9 out of 10 children being bullied are also harassed online. However, the fight did not present itself as a result of bullying.
Students are often warned about the dangers of social media. Erickson included, “Just take a string of texts and post them on a wall…would you allow your grandmother to see them?” He said further warning students of the implications the internet can have will help prevent such occurrences at Pleasant Valley.
Since the administration believes the fight was initiated through social media, Erickson emphasized the importance of “see something, say something.”
The altercation according to students
The altercation that occurred last Wednesday has fabricated a rumor mill in the halls of PVHS. The story has progressed into many different versions and proceeded far from the truth.
The conflict began on Instagram, a popular social media platform for teens, which led to arguments between two groups of people. This ultimately led to the incident last week.
A student walked into the commons looking to pick a fight with another, words were exchanged, and this led to punches being thrown.
The event led to chaos in the commons. Sunny Wolfe was returning from her locker and said “there were kids yelling ‘Taze that kid, taze that kid!’” which was a nerve-racking moment for many.
Without a school resource officer (SRO) present, the staff had to handle the situation by themselves. For student’s safety, the “the study hall teacher told all of the study hall students to go to the cafeteria which we did,” according to Michael Vanderschaaf, a junior.
Many students feel that administration and faculty did not handle the event well. When the altercation was occurring, the “administration was trying to control the scene but that didn’t really work because the student was still throwing punches at teachers and students,” stated Vanderschaaf.
Students were confused as to why there was no SRO present. “The situation could’ve been much less chaotic and handled quicker if there would have been a school resource officer there,” stated Wolfe. The school’s full-time SRO, Jamey Fah, was out on a training assignment.
Once the study hall students were moved out of the commons, the student that instigated the conflict made his way into the hallway and went after another student, according to Wolfe. This led to two students taking down the instigator. For the safety of fellow students, “a few of the guys stopped him from hurting anybody,” said TJ Brown, a senior.
The conflict ended in the hallway when both students were taken to the office and Bettendorf Police arrived at the school.
PV administration said the conflict was largely due to social media, but students, especially senior Caitlin Simon, do not agree. “All students have issues on social media and it hasn’t progressed this far. He took something on social media and made it dangerous which is not a common thing. He could’ve handled it differently,” she said.
Simon and many students agree that violence is not the option to diffusing these situations.
When altercations like these happen, it is common to hear many different versions of the event. Names are mixed up, timeline is different, and things are made-up. Students should look at the whole story before deepening the rumor mill.
Putting safety first: PV administration reacts promptly against student conflict
Following Wednesday’s student altercation, the strictly-enforced safety protocols put students in the midst of a hyperactive day.
Students are aware of the student altercation in the commons area during a Wednesday morning study hall. Although quickly after the incident administrators were able to regain control of the situation, students near the event had to react without much warning.
The students in the same study hall were shuffled into the cafeteria where they were held momentarily. Senior Peggy Klingler was in the commons area when the incident took place. “When they started yelling to get out it made it worse for the teachers trying to contain him because at least 30 students were getting in the way,” she said.
The rest of the school proceeded to a “soft lock-down.” An announcement was made to the classrooms stating that students were to remain in their classrooms until further notice, even after the bell would ring. Fortunately, this was not necessary due to the quick reaction time of administrators.
From the second level of the building, senior Natalie Adams was restrained from looking through the window viewing the commons area. “I was told by a teacher that I couldn’t stand by my locker because it had a view of the incident taking place on the level below me,” she said.
An email was sent to the parents of every student stating what happened. In the email, the event was referred to as a “student altercation,” and blame for the incident was placed upon social media. An all-staff meeting led by Principal Darren Erickson also took place later that afternoon, in which teachers discussed what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
“We have a lot of staff here that have been trained, but we need to get to everybody,” said Erickson after teachers expressed concern for not being prepared for these situations.
A school resource officer was not present in the building on Wednesday. Deputy Jamey Fah was conducting a training program outside of school and his replacement was called to another location for an emergency situation. Five to eight minutes passed before the first officers arrived in the building.
The fate of the students involved has not been finalized, but students will have consequences following the situation. Erickson does not want to jump too quickly to come up with a solution. “My goal is that everyone involved can return to this school and feel safe,” he said. “We want to work towards making Pleasant Valley the best school in the nation.”
Social media: the ideal scapegoat
As a series of fights take place in schools throughout the area in a matter of a week, one common theme has emerged: social media.
On Nov. 6, an email was sent to everyone enrolled at Pleasant Valley High School. “The incident today was due to comments being exchanged through social media over the last few weeks,” wrote PVHS Administration. Rather than blaming the student who assaulted fellow classmates and teachers, the administration blamed the “altercation in the hallway” on social media.
Principal Darren Erickson commented on the enews, “the bigger issue is why did it happen, which we believe that social media was a big factor,” he said.
Fights are nothing new to high school. While it may not be an everyday occurrence at PV, it still has its place among a bevy of problems that plague PV.
However, unlike issues such as vaping or cheating, a scapegoat emerges with fights. In the latest fight, Pleasant Valley cited social media as the root cause for the altercation occurring. While it isn’t free of blame, there are bigger issues than the improper use of technology.
Principal Darren Erikson supported the idea that social media was a major proponent of the fight. “You can say a lot of things over the phone that you can’t say face to face,” he said.
However, fights have spanned much farther than social media has been around. The notion that fights are primarily caused by social media sets a dangerous precedent.
There is no doubt that social media did play its part in instigating the fight; however, not to the extent that was claimed by the administration. Instead, the real problem lies in students feeling the need to assault their peers in order to resolve their problems.
Senior Kishore Vijaykumar was among many students who felt the school was wrong in placing the blame primarily on social media. “A lot of things are said over social media, but not everyone gets into a physical fight over it,” he said.
When a student gets caught vaping, the administration does not blame gas stations that sell nicotine to them. Instead the student is entirely at fault for choosing to use such products. Fights are no different. While outside factors may fuel a situation, the real problem lies in viewing a fight as the primary solution.
Having social media be the scapegoat for a bigger problem is an ignorant move by the administration. It’s easy to place blame on something that seems to be the cause of many issues in schools. Schools need to fight the bigger issue if they want to prevent further altercations.
What truly is considered a fight?
After an incident occurs at any school, the term ‘fight’ runs through the rumor mill quite frequently; however, many times, a fight is not what actually occurred.
Fighting is defined as “an attempt to defend oneself against or to subdue, defeat, or destroy an adversary,” according to dictionary.com. This implies that two people are involved in a fight, and both parties participate. The altercation that happened on Wednesday involved two individuals throwing punches, constituting the altercation as a true fight.
Usually, fighting is not just a spur of the moment attack; there are certain elements that lead up to individuals’ wants to throw punches. In this instance, comments made on Instagram, angered a student enough to fight other students.
There is also a discrepancy between self-defense and fighting back. Self-defense is needed when one is being attacked by another person, in order for their personal safety. Fighting back happens when both parties are equally willing to engage in a physical altercation. In Pleasant Valley’s situation, however, both students were equally as willing to fight each other, so self-defense wasn’t necessary.
PV’s fight: Serious issue or blown out of proportion?
Pleasant Valley High School saw a fight involving multiple students last Wednesday that led to a series of drastic responses from both the students and staff.
From an outside perspective: a fight is a simple matter, and nothing uncommon. Though in the past PV has had occasional altercations, the fight that occurred was the first of its kind in recent time. Students and staff reacted to this fight as if it were a monumental moment. While there are important issues surrounding the fight and the build up to it, the severity of the event was blown out of proportion.
High school fights are very common throughout the nation in other schools. Within the past week, Davenport West High School had a fight between two students that ended with one in the hospital and the other facing criminal charges.
Across the Mississippi at United Township High School (UT) graduate Ian Solis recalled frequent fights during his tenure at UT. “It was very sporadic. Sometimes we would go a few weeks without a fight and then have three in a day,” Solis said.
Because of its common occurrence, Solis and his peers were used to this type of behavior. “None of the fights were talked about. Sometimes you would hear about them the period after or depending on who was on the fight,” he said.
On the other hand, after the fight at PV, students have been solely focused on the subject for several days. “I have heard someone talking about the fight almost every period since it happened. It has kind of gotten ridiculous,” Senior Jacob Holland said.
Students have not been the only ones discussing the fight after the fact. The school sent out a mass email to all parents of PV students addressing the underlying issues behind the fight as well as releasing the same statement to KWQC. The fight was also a prevalent topic of discussion among teachers and staff at in-services for the early out on the day of the fight.
If PV wanted to take away attention from the fight to diffuse the situation, they should have simply moved on rather than rushing to blame social media.
It is necessary for the school to peacefully resolve issues like this one. However, the excessive response from both PV students and staff has made it difficult to move past an event that typically does not disrupt the productivity of students for days following the incident in other school districts.
Fight Culture: the need to prevent it before it manifests
An epidemic has progressed throughout the Quad Cities. Students at Davenport West, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley, Moline, and Central have had one fight a day across each respective high school. These recent altercations serve as a lesson about identifying the telltale signs of a fight, diffusing conflict from happening, and adhering to the appropriate steps to take once a fight starts.
All altercations, excluding Bettendorf’s, presented a culmination of rising tensions which led to the these despites. A clear example of this occurred at Pleasant Valley when a student getting punched in the hallway escalated to a full-scale conflict a week later. Pleasant Valley faculty could learn a lesson from these incidents, as they begin to recognize that larger-scale disputes often emerge from smaller ones if they fail to address the situation.
Public shaming or callouts whether they originate in person or on social media appears to promote a “fight culture”. It is important to consider the consequences of posting something that may include sensitive content. If a post explicitly insults or slanders someone, only more conflict will follow.
According to OurQuadCities, “It seems as though a social media conflict was the major cause of this (The West) altercation” (2019).
Most of these “fights” are clearly one-sided in perspective. “It wasn’t a fight,” sophomore Heaven Johnson said about the altercation in PV on Wednesday, “they were kicking him when he was down.”
If the fights evolve into an uncontrollable magnitude, students and faculty can suffer injuries in the process. Senior Kaiden Cruise explains, “My friend, who’s a police officer at Bettendorf, got hurt so bad in the fight there that he had to go to the hospital and get stapled, it’s not a game.”
Physical disputes do not simply inflict injuries on those involved; rather, they affect innocent bystanders who had no role in the dispute at all; therefore, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to do a better job at preventing these issues from manifesting in the first place.
Ultimately, students can actively play in role in mitigating many of these incidents. Instead of reaching for phones to videotape fights, students should, if able, try to separate combatants and immediately contact the School Resource Officer or another teacher.
Whether it be through educational programs or counseling, faculty and the administration must equip their students with the resources and tools to resolve conflicts and disputes before physical aggression materializes.