School Board, District, Try To Stop Increase In Fighting At Franklin High School

FIGHT MEME – A screen shot from an FHS fight video turned into a meme. Faces have been blurred.

School district officials are scrambling to respond to and quell an uptick in fights at Franklin High School this school year.

According to data supplied to parents by the high school administration, there were 22 fights in October alone., and fights occur on a daily basis.

The fights have been videoed by students and uploaded to social media sites such as Instagram, and FHS students have taken to creating memes about the incidents and the high school administration, some of which express their frustration over the fact that some days see multiple fights.

Most of the channels used by students to post the videos have been removed. But some videos seen prior to that show students flailing at each other and, at times, staff members and special police officers trying to separate the combatants, with varying degrees of success.

One video, posted in October 2022, showed three simultaneous fights.

On February 9, FHS principal Nicholas Solomon distributed to staff, students and parents a memo stressing that the fighting “will not be tolerated.”

“Fighting jeopardizes the safety of our students and staff, it disrupts the rights of students to learn and feel safe,” Solomon said in the memo. “Fighting and other acts of physical aggression, regardless of the reason, will be dealt with immediately and the offenders may be assigned suspension, put on home instruction, or the like pending a more suitable school placement.”

“This action is necessary to ensure that our high school is a place where students who want to learn, can follow the expectations, and can do so in a safe and nurturing school environment,” he said in the memo.

“We can not let this behavior of a few students disrupt the educational opportunities of the many students and staff who recognize and value what our high school has to offer,” Solomon said in the memo.

According to an anonymous letter from a person who described themselves as an FHS parent, sent to schools Superintendent John Ravally, Solomon’s memo was widely panned, as was his administrative style.

“The ‘memo’ that Principal Solomon issued to the student population as a way of ‘handling’ the fighting is a very WEAK response to a very big problem,” the letter reads. “The students are tired of the fighting and see the ‘memo’ as a joke. Some wanted to sign it in crayon to illustrate that a juvenile approach was being taken to address a very serious and dangerous problem. Others refused to sign in at all.”

District spokeswoman Mary Clark said that Solomon reported the fighting page to Instagram and encouraged parents to do so also.

“With regard to acts of physical aggression either reported, witnessed or viewed on social media, those incidents are always thoroughly investigated and students are dealt with in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct,” she said in a written statement.

The Board of Education’s Safety Committee held a virtual special meeting on February 15 to discuss the violence at the school.

In addition to discussing Solomon’s memo, the Committee “reviewed the efforts to identify and shut down inappropriate Social Media postings aimed at causing student embarrassment and humiliation,” and “reviewed District measures and resources that are in place to respond to Other Types of Safety Concerns Such As Bullying, Teen Suicide Ideation, Students Who Exhibit Unusual or Alarming Behaviors,” according to the Committee report.

Student meme.

Orvyl Wilson, the district’s Director of School Management & Student Advocacy, walked the committee through how the district “regularly monitors Student Discipline Data which include but are not limited to: Monthly meetings with Principals & Vice Principals, Monthly Safety Team Meetings, Regular Meetings With Student Assistance Coordinators & Rutgers Behavioral Health Representatives and Building PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) Representatives,” according to the report.

Wilson also reviewed methods the District is using in collaboration with the Franklin Township Police Department, including building an incident command team and presenting a “positive presence” at the school.

School Board president Nancy LaCorte said in a statement that “safety and Security are the BOE’s #1 goal. The board takes this very seriously and have been involved since last week. There are some upcoming programs that I hope parents and students can participate in.”

“Also, on the district website are a lot of resources that we encourage parents and students to take advantage of,” she said in the statement. “Parents, if you see something that is off with your child, please use these free resources, and call your child’s guidance counselor, or principal.”

Fights are not usually included in the District’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying report, she said, “but the students were disciplined in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct.”

In the letter to Superintendent Ravally, the parent wrote that on February 7, “some staff members have reported there were nine fights and 21 suspensions on this date alone … there were two fights before 8:30 a.m. alone.”

“Our students were texting us all day about the nonstop fighting,” the parent wrote. “Parents were texting each other about whether we should sign our students out of school early that day.”

“The situation was so bad on Tuesday that we were wondering if school would be cancelled the next day, yet absolutely nothing happened …” the parent wrote.

“Please also note that these fights are having a horrible impact on the mental and emotional well being of our students,” the parent wrote. “These videos are no different than the horrible police brutality videos we see on the evening news except in this case these are our students – brutally attacking each other.”

“They should all be arrested,” the parent wrote. “This is assault. These are criminal acts occurring in our high school. It has become a free-for-all; a place where they can fight with no fear of being arrested.”

The issue is expected to be discussed at the Board’s February 23 meeting.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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