An investigation is underway and several students suspended after a violent brawl inside a Pennsylvania high school this week.
The chaos unfolded Monday at Hazleton Area High School, where officials said multiple fights broke out between students during lunch hour. Video from the incident, which was widely circulated across social media, showed multiple police and school resource officers restraining an apparently Black or Afro-Latina female student in the cafeteria. The school’s makeup is 47 percent Hispanic, 50 percent white, and 2 percent Black, with a high proportion of students of Dominican descent.
In the clip, three security guards are seen gripping the unnamed student as her arms are forced behind her back. At one point, one of the officers yanks the teen by her hair before slamming her head down on the cafeteria table. Students are heard yelling in shock, some of them trying to intervene on the young woman’s behalf.
The footage has sparked outrage across the southeastern Pennsylvania community of Hazle Township and included calls for the security officers and workers involved to be fired. Hazelton school district officials are standing by their officers, however, and say the video doesn’t tell the entire story.
“There’s always two sides to a story. There’s extenuating circumstances leading up to what we saw on social media,” Superintendent Brian Uplinger told local paper The Standard Speaker. “Please get both sides of the story before making judgment or calling judgment out on any individuals or the district.”
According to school officials, what the 20-second clip doesn’t show is an argument started by the female student in question, and the three separate fights that ensued as students became riled up.
School security director Edward Harry said his officers followed procedure in handling the incident. Now, he is calling on the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office to file charges against the female student and others shown in the full video.
“You see a couple seconds, if you want to take that out of context, (if) you are not seeing the whole thing unfold, yeah, you might look at that and think something was done wrong here,” said Harry, likening the incident to video of white Catholic teens accosting a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial last month. “You need to look at the whole story.”
Uplinger decided against releasing the full video to the public after the district’s solicitor advised against it, citing student privacy issues. The mother of the female student involved has seen it, he said.
In all, four students have been suspended while the district investigates.
Harry said the cafeteria was thrown into disarray after the female student started an argument with another girl and climbed on top of a table in front of a vice principal, who told her to stop.
“She wasn’t having it,” Harry told The Standard Speaker, describing how the girl fought off friends and school staff who were trying to hold her back. That’s when Harry said two of her friends joined in, going after the other girl in the fight.
“It just escalated,” he added. “This was getting out of control, spiraling out of control very quickly, and we needed to gain control. There are 700 kids in the cafeteria.”
School officers managed to restrain students in three parts of the cafeteria, which has been the scene of several fights already this year. The security director said one incident left four students injured and sent a teacher to the hospital.
No injuries were reported in Monday’s brawl.
Harry noted that it wasn’t until officers became physical with the girl that she finally calmed down. Describing the full video, the Standard Speaker reported, “The officer swung his fist twice at the girl’s hands until she let go of the table in front of her. As the men with the red shirts bent her face down toward the table, the officer pushed her head down, pulled back his hand and then grabbed her hair to hold her on the table.”
“When that happened that got her attention,” Harry said. “You can see when she stopped, the officers stopped. That’s exactly the way it’s supposed to go.”
It’s unclear if the officers involved have been placed on leave pending an investigation.
Atlanta Black Star reached out to the district for comment but hasn’t heard back.
Watch more in the video below.
this is the hazleton area school district security. THIS IS NOT OKAY ! She is a female student not an animal. let’s get this man fired
Posted by Dianna Santana on Monday, February 4, 2019