Videos of school fights are popping up almost weekly in South Florida. The videos show violent attacks and are landing students and adults in handcuffs.
“Every night I continue to play that video and audio so that I will continue to push,” said Christina Neptune who said her daughter was knocked unconscious at Gulfstream Academy in Hallandale Beach.
She shared what she said is video of the attack with NBC 6 News.
“I wish she didn’t have to go through it, because now I have a child who is living in fear of going to school,” said Neptune.
Her daughter is not alone.
Earlier this year another student spoke to NBC 6 and said that she switched schools after being threatened online by her classmates at another Broward School.
She asked NBC 6 to protect her identity for safety concerns, “They posted a lot of threats saying they were going to jump us, like hit us,” said the student.
NBC 6 brought her concerns to the Broward Schools Superintendent.
“That really hurts my soul,” said Dr. Vickie I. Cartwright. “One thing here at Broward Public Schools, we are very committed to provide a safe environment.”
Across the country, there are more violent attacks being reported in schools. NBC 6 wanted to know if the problem is getting worse, so we pulled the numbers.
School districts are required to report fights and other violent incidents to the Florida Department of Education. According to data the number of reported fights is down over the last five years (2016-2021) statewide. But that includes years of hybrid or virtual learning, meaning fewer or no kids on campus.
While this school year’s data is still being gathered, Miami-Dade Schools said there’s an increase in fights and physical attacks. In Broward County the superintendent said preliminary numbers show no increase.
“We are not seeing a huge increase in the number of fights,” said Dr. Cartwright.
But that doesn’t bring much comfort to Neptune.
“My daughter has had to relive that day every day…My daughter is traumatized,” Neptune said.
The 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland put a spotlight on violence in schools and lead to the creation of a statewide grand jury. In 2019 they singled out Miami-Dade and Broward saying the districts “have merely become experts at data manipulation” and were "intentionally not reporting" violent incidents.
It’s important to note schools are not required to report small fights to the state, like shoving or pushing. In fact, only fights that result in medical attention, first aid or physical intervention are required to be reported to the state. The grand jury said this led to a “dramatic drop” in the numbers of reported fights in Miami-Dade and recommended changes.
In response Miami-Dade shared a letter where they denied any claims of data manipulation.
Both districts said they continue to follow state guidelines and requirements. However, the numbers don’t matter to Neptune, who wants the schools to do more to keep students safe.
“I want change," Neptune said.
She said she is now planning to sue Broward Public Schools over the attack she said happened to her daughter.
“I want what happened to her, I want to prevent it from happening to other children,” she added.
Two students were arrested in connection to her daughter’s attack.
Broward Public Schools wouldn’t comment on the case citing potential litigation. As to the data concerns, the district did release a statement:
“The District takes the responsibility of accurately reporting discipline data seriously and has implemented numerous actions over the past several years to increase training (throughout the school year) and accountability for staff and administrators.
As per School Board policy, school administrators are required to report all incidents on their campuses as defined by the District’s discipline matrix. The Discipline Matrix is aligned with the state’s SESIR definitions and reporting requirements.
District staff frequently run and analyze discipline data to ensure it is accurately coded and reported within the Discipline Management System. If staff identify anomalies with a school’s data, they contact the school’s administrators to review and discuss, and correct any issues, if necessary. Discipline data reviews and updates are also provided during the monthly principal and assistant principal meetings and guidance is provided, as needed and requested by individual schools.
Additionally, SESIR data is posted on the District’s website and updated monthly to ensure transparency.”
Miami-Dade Schools said that they hired a new assistant principal at Miami Central High and purchased golf carts to supervise the school perimeter. They said state investigators were at the school the day of the last fight and found no safety violations.
NBC 6 reached out to Broward Schools board member Debra Hixon about the issue. We asked her why she thinks these fights are taking place in schools.
“I honestly wish I had the answer, I blame a lot of things on social media,” said Hixon. “The kids are so bold and brazen. They are determined this is something they are going to do because it will make them Tik-Tok famous and that’s the culture that our students are growing up in and that’s really what I think needs to change."
Hixon said schools are trying to address violence when it happens.
“There are no adults that are letting students go and beat each other,” she said. “We are definitively addressing what’s happening in the schools and partnering with law enforcement to make sure the students are getting consequences.”
It’s a personal journey for Hixon. She lost her husband in the Parkland shooting and knows first-hand the worst-case scenario.
“How do you even focus on learning when you don’t know if you are going to be safe, every single day? I lived that reality. I know it can happen. And we live in the community where it happened,” she said.
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