Administration threatens to ban phones

Emma Garcia, Online Editor

The bell rings and students flood into the courtyard and make their way to the cafeteria for lunch. On the grass in front of the stage, two boys are shouting at each other and soon are throwing punches. Before long, an all-out brawl breaks out and thanks to social media — students begin to run in the direction of the fight.

Fights such as these have become a common occurrence at Bear Creek, so much that the administration has decided to take action.

On February 5, Principal Bill Atterberry announced in the morning bulletin that the administration would be taking steps to to address the recent epidemic of fights on campus and in the neighboring areas that included Bear Creek students.

Atterberry outlined not only his frustration at the number of fights, but students’ reactions when learning of an impending fight. Atterberry said that the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed is the “mob mentality that fuels and often incites these fights.”

As a result, the administration has decided that every student that crowds around a fight will be suspended, no matter how many have to be penalized. This decision is consistent with Education Code 4900(t).

The administration will also begin to penalize students who are caught recording fights and posting them on social media, which has become an ever-growing problem.

“If we have to send 500 hundred students home for a couple of days to effect a change on the behavior associated with fights, we are prepared to do so,” Atterberry said in his email to the staff.

Mob mentality is something that is very common in high schools. It’s what psychologists describe as how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors.

For example, as soon as a fight starts, students know. They don’t know because they see the fight itself, but because of the rush of students moving toward it.

“When there is a fight at school I notice most students making a ruckus and making more of it than there actually is,” junior Leo Manzo said. “I think once students start gathering around the fight, it instigates others to join around and make a scene.”

These cases of mob mentality worry the administration that students are both encouraging these fights and preventing security from breaking them up.

One goal of the administration is to help students find an outlet for their frustrations without fighting. A few options already exist, but most students do not take advantage of them.

“There is a conflict mediation class that these kids could go to to help solve these conflicts, but I don’t think some of these students know about the class,” junior Mckenzie Bacich said.

To help solve the problem of students recording fights and posting them on social media, the administration worked together with the PTSA to give parents information on the consequences students can face for their involvement.

The two groups hosted a “Social Media Parent Awareness” presentation on February 11, an event that was advertised through an automated phone call. The presentation was meant to be an open discussion on a wide range of subjects between the administration, students, parents, counselors, and the presenter, San Joaquin County Probation Officer Brenda Agraz.

Due either to parents’ lack of knowledge about the presentation or just a lack of interest, only two parents attended.

Parent Juan Chavez said that he and his wife were surprised more parents did not show up to the presentation.
“What we got from the discussion was that there are so many forms of communication within social media that students need to be aware of,” Chavez said.

Chavez also said that one thing students need to be aware of is what is appropriate to post online.

President Lori Michael said that this was the first parent forum they have organized on this topic and if another is held next year, it will be better publicized.

If the fights continue, Atterberry informed both students and parents that the current cell phone policy could change. Atterberry has told students that phones will be banned during both passing periods and during lunch. Students will be allowed to have their phones with them but their phones must be off and put away from 7:20 until 2:10.

“I feel that it would be a very irrelevant rule because teachers don’t enforce the rules and just because there’s that rule it doesn’t mean it will work, and it wouldn’t reduce the number of students recording fights,” senior Kelsie Hughes said.