Caught on cellphone video: Yukon students fighting

Canadian Press

WHITEHORSE — The trend of taping schoolyard fights on cellphones has reached Whitehorse and resulted in the suspensions of 18 students.

Kerry Huff, principal of suburban Porter Creek Secondary School, confirmed Thursday that some students have been suspended following two fights that occurred after school on Tuesday.

Four of the students were suspended for participating in the fight, while the other 14 were suspended for watching it, and that number is rising.

“We've had a student surrender their cellphone video of the fights,” said Mr. Huff.

“It's extremely disturbing that someone would tape this ... with the intention of putting it on the computer, out on the 'net.”

Across Canada and the U.S., school administrators have began using popular video websites like YouTube to catch students participating in fights, and using that footage to suspend students.

Mr. Huff said two fights occurred, with crowds of about 60 to 70 kids watching.

The first fight broke out on school property between two boys in grades 8 and 9, but was broken up by school staff.

Mr. Huff said the fight then moved off school property, where parents called in and reported seeing a physical altercation between two boys in senior grades, also with a large crowd watching.

In both fights, no participants required medical attention, said Mr. Huff.

School administrators downloaded the videos from a student's cellphone and were able to identify several students who watched and encouraged the fights.

The cellphone has been returned to the student, but the school has retained downloaded copies of the videos. Mr. Huff said as more students are identified on the videos, more will be suspended.

One student who was suspended for watching the fight said Friday he has learned his lesson and will not watch a fight again. Asked how he felt about being caught on a cellphone, he was not so apologetic.

“Yes, I am mad they caught me on a cellphone; I think it's stupid ... Like, how did they know it was me?”

“It's good visual evidence,” Mr. Huff said, which has helped him explain to parents why their child was suspended as he does not have to rely on hearsay evidence.

Some parents did wonder, however, why their children were suspended for watching the fight.

“It's a relatively new policy, I'd say a couple of years old,” said Mr. Huff. “It's a no-violence policy and same for the spectators. If the audience stays away then the fights won't happen.”

Mr. Huff said this was the first time he has used the non-violence policy to suspend students for watching a fight.

The mother of one of the fight's participants said Friday her son has been suspended for five days.

“My son was suspended for participating in the fight, and you know, he got what he deserved,” she said.

“I was more shocked at the number of kids that watched; I understand what the school is doing.”

Whether a fight occurs on or off school property, Mr. Huff said he is responsible for students until they get home, where care transfers over to the parents or guardians.

The RCMP were called to respond to the second fight but it had broken up and people were walking home when they arrived, said an RCMP spokesperson.

Mr. Huff said most of the students who were suspended for watching the fights have accepted responsibility.

Classes were cancelled Thursday and Friday for professional development days, so the suspensions will be effective starting Monday.

The mother who spoke to the Whitehorse Star said punishment is in order, but the suspensions are not the way to go.

“Put something else in place instead of the kids coming home and watching TV,” she said. “We work as parents; what do you with a 14-year-old at home for five days?”

She said she and her husband have laid down the law with their son, telling him he has to learn to deal with things another way.