For the second time in a month, a classroom at Roosevelt High School in Fresno was the scene of violence.
Both incidents were caught on cellphone video.
In the latest incident, two 15-year-old Roosevelt High School girls were arrested on battery charges after the video of the pair beating a third girl appeared on Facebook, and a boy Fresno police say incited the incident was suspended from the school.
On Thursday, Fresno Unified Trustee Luis Chavez said the two arrested girls and the boy are being recommended for expulsion. He said the district will add two or three security assistants at the Roosevelt campus and more hours to the school resource officer’s schedule.
“What was really so surprising to me was just the viciousness of the attack,” he said. “What was even more disappointing was that the parent of one of the individuals would put this (video) on social media and brag about it.”
Lt. Joe Gomez said the incident happened Monday after the boy, 15, told one of the girls that the victim was gossiping about her. As seen in the video, one suspect confronted the victim and began to punch and kick her. A short time later another girl joined the attack.
A teacher tried to stop the fight but could not. A school resource officer broke it up.
The girls were initially suspended from the school in addition to being booked on the battery charges and on charges of fighting on school grounds.
District spokesman Jed Chernabaeff said schools review emergency protocols after any incident occurs to make sure students and staff are taking appropriate safety measures. When fights happen in the classroom, he said teachers and staff are instructed to call an emergency line that is directed to the front office. That phone has a special ring to signify an emergency.
In Monday’s case, Chernabaeff said the teacher notified custodial staff, who contacted campus safety via radio.
Chavez said the district is closely monitoring the situation. He stopped short of saying Roosevelt has a violence issue, but said his stance would change if a couple of more incidents like that occur this school year.
“We have incidents just like at any school, conflict between students,” he said. “But this is not normal – just the viciousness.”
Tish Rice, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, said she doesn’t think Roosevelt is an anomaly or that the school has more aggressive students than other campuses.
“Roosevelt isn’t any worse,” she said.
Last school year, 133 students were expelled from Fresno Unified schools for causing, attempting or threatening physical injury. An additional 84 students were expelled for using force or violence.
Chavez said access to cellphones and social media create an incentive for students to record violent incidents.
“The student obviously orchestrated this and made up a rumor to essentially record this and put it up on social media,” he said. “That’s part of the lure.”
The safety of students and staff is a top priority, Chavez said. Students are allowed to have cellphones in case of emergency. But he said the incidents this month have prompted trustees to look at the district’s cellphone policy and decide whether students should have phones out in class.
Rice said teachers would feel safer if the district administration communicated to the staff what consequences students will face if they fight at school.
“It’s a new school year, so if incidents like these are occurring, I would think the administration needs to be proactive in clearly communicating to the student body that these are the expectations,” she said.
“I think it’s pretty clear that students know what the consequences are when they get into fights,” he said.