MONESSEN, Pa. — Some parents are raising concerns about student safety after a fight broke out at Monessen High School.
The violent scuffle happened during the lunch period on Monday. It was recorded on several students’ cell phones and shows at least three students wrestling each other to the ground, taking swings and pulling hair.
That video came up at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
“I seen the video, and I was disgusted by it,” said community member Ramonte Barfield.
Toya Sweeney, the guardian to her 14-year-old niece, said her niece was in that video, adding that she was targeted and attacked by those students.
“I saw the video after I picked her up from school and it was sickening to see that many people that was pouncing on her,” she said. “It wasn’t just a fight; it was a brawl.”
Sweeney’s 9th-grade niece told her a classmate was making threats over social media about beating her during school Monday. Then, she said that girl started coming toward her in the lunchroom.
“She had her hair pulled out, so she has a bald spot on the right side of her head,” Sweeney said. “She said she felt sore all over her body today, but there was a lot of hair pulling from all different directions.”
Superintendent Dr. Robert Motte said they were alerted to those threats ahead of time and thwarted plans to start a fight three different times that day before the chaos broke out in the cafeteria.
This is the fourth violent fight since school started back up two weeks ago.
“What are you guys doing to protect these children?” Barfield said. “What are you doing to protect their education? What plan of action do you have in place for when things like this happen?”
School administrators said one security guard was working Monday. They’re looking to hire another one or two at the high school, including a part-time police officer. One security guard just resigned Monday night.
Administrators also said they’d like to have parents volunteer as a sort of glorified hall monitor to have more eyes on the ground.
“The board has been in discussion, and we are not taking it lightly,” said School Board President Doreen Smith.
The school district is also looking into having smaller lunch sizes, from four grades down to two.
Administrators are also reaching out to the consulting group, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, to see what works best to keep issues like this from happening.
Meantime, Sweeney said she’d like to see more police officers on school grounds and changes made from the top down to make her niece feel safe.
“Just to feel unsafe is very unsettling,” she said. “I just want her to be able go to school and be safe and get an education because she’s very bright.”
None of the students involved in the fight were seriously hurt.
The superintendent said leaders know which student started it and will hold her accountable but did not say what consequence that student would face.
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