A series of fights this week at Westerly High School raise a number of concerns on several levels, not the least of which are reports that fellow students watched rather than intervened.
Specific details of the various altercations on Wednesday and Friday — verbal and physical — remain unclear and rushing to judgment or blame is irresponsible, though social media platforms invite the spread of blame and inaccurate information.
Fights between high schoolers are nothing new, but at any point, and especially in 2017, they could turn far more dangerous than fistfights of old. Students face a barrage of violence today via the smartphones they carry with them everywhere and always. Parents can no longer only worry about movies and television. This barrage can be numbing and make young people immune to the level of harm that can result.
Hence, they watch two or more fellow students fight as if it were entertainment, and worse, they record video for posting online to any one of the social media platforms available to them. With Facebook live, they can post it in real time.
And that scenario is what was described to us — students standing around recording a fight rather than stopping it. What does that say about the character of young people today? They care more about how many views they’ll get than they do about a fellow student being beaten? A bad fall in one of these altercations could result in brain damage. A hard punch to a particular area can cause permanent injury, or disfigurement and death at the extreme.
Could such an incident, allowed to escalate, lead to a national headline with the prevalence of guns in society? Overstating the case? Tell that to the people in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where many after that mass shooting talked of the sense of family and community they all shared.
Westerly isn’t above any other town in the country. It isn’t immune to rage. No, we haven’t had lots of violent crime, certainly not with weapons involved, but Newtown, Conn., didn’t either. It’s a pretty suburb with what we’d call the ugliest mass shooting on record.
Some of Westerly’s young folks feel it’s OK to watch a fight rather than protect someone. And some even feel it’s OK to shoot video of it to share and watch over and over. Blame society, blame technology, blame the nation’s leaders and the disrespectful actions of people in places and positions that should demand respect. Blame won’t change the mindset.
Whatever you do, don’t blame the school system. These kids don’t wake up in the morning at school. Sounds like it’s time for some good old fashioned kitchen table discussions about right and wrong and strong character.