ITEAM: Thousands of brawls broke out at EBR schools over last two years, records show
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The WAFB I-TEAM has uncovered the East Baton Rouge School System has recorded more than 6,000 fights on campuses across the district over the last two years, according to records obtained from the school system.
There have been a number of fights making headlines in recent years with chaos breaking out on school campuses across the district. Many may remember dozens of kids were arrested and an officer was even sent to the hospital with a broken hip after a massive 200-person melee at the EBR Readiness Alternative School back in March.
Back in April 2022, officers swarmed McKinley High to get control of a fight on that campus That one stemmed from a smaller fight earlier in the day that then spilled into a larger brawl, including parents and weapons.
Dana Sylve has two students who attend EBR schools and he believes things have gotten out of control.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Sylve whether he is confident that school system leaders can adequately turn things around.
“Compared to when I went to school, my confidence in it is slim. It needs a big change and it needs a big work over. It does,” said Sylve.
The WAFB I-TEAM crunched the numbers and found that for the school year that just came to a close, there were 3,247 fights on campuses across the district. For the school year before that, there were 3,340 fights at schools in EBR. That means in the last two years, there have been a total of 6,587 fights across the district.
“I mean just look at the numbers you just called out. That’s incredible,” Sylve added.
Sylve says he believes social media can be blamed for adding extra fuel to the fights.
”That’s what’s causing most of the problems in schools,” said Sylve. “These kids get on the internet and get these beefs or what they call it and when they come to school the next day they get in fights. They get in gang fights all because of somebody saying something over TikTok or Facebook or Instagram.”
The WAFB I-TEAM found whole accounts on Instagram dedicated to recording and spreading the action. All of the violence is just a scroll away, which allows other kids to comment and relive the moments long after the dust settles from those fights.
Arcelius Brickhouse is the chief of schools with the district and says they are committed to addressing every report of violence.
“We do not take anything lightly. If we receive any notice of threats or anything of that nature, we address those promptly to make sure that schools are supported in those particular situations,” said Brickhouse. “We take violence very seriously. Any fight or one fight is one fight too many. One of the things that we have to do is that when we do have fights is to assess, reset and look at how we can help support the school and the administrators in terms of preventing the issue from happening again.”
Brickhouse says they constantly monitor the violence and while social media plays a role in helping to spread the activity, he believes the frequency of those fights stems from the pandemic.
“Fights are a concern. That is something we don’t want to have in our buildings at all, certainly,” Brickhouse added. “But we do know that we’re coming off something that has never happened before, a pandemic. Students were at home and not able to socialize and not able to really engage with one another and sometimes these are some of the effects that we’re dealing with.”
Brickhouse says part of their strategy includes zeroing in on specific schools that have more issues than others, boosting the safety and security budget and increasing training for school resource officers. They are also starting a safety committee to create a specific action plan.
“That safety committee is comprised of teachers, parents, community stakeholders and administrators and we’re really looking at doing a thorough look at what’s going on in terms of our safety and security to support improvement,” said Brickhouse.
Brickhouse says East Baton Rouge is the second largest school system in the state and with more than 40,000 students he admits something needs to change but says part of fixing the problem lies with partnerships and goes beyond what teachers and administrators can do on their own.
“This is not something that we can address by ourselves and working together with the community and the parents is the only way that we will actually see changes done,” Brickhouse added.
Leaders with the district say they want to address the problem not just with discipline but also in other ways to maybe identify and treat the underlying issues that spark that violence.
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