Students at Mont Pleasant Middle School may think there are riches awaiting them on YouTube, but they’re wrong, the video-sharing service said.
Some students are attacking others and filming it with smartphones in hopes of getting paid by YouTube, according to a gang specialist hired by the school district. He said they think they will get paid if a fight video gets 1 million views. But it’s not that easy, according to a YouTube spokeswoman.
The company cuts checks only when a poster earns at least $100 in advertising revenue. Making that much off one video is rare, she said.
Even if one video were to go viral and get a million views, the spokeswoman said she couldn’t be sure the poster would get $100.
“Maybe,” she said.
As for getting lots of money, that doesn’t usually happen from one video.
There are thousands of posters making six-figure sums each year off YouTube videos, the company said. But they post videos every day that draw in hundreds of thousands of viewers. It’s that accumulation of videos that brings in the big bucks, the company said.
And fight videos seen by that many people would probably be deleted.
“We count on our users to flag material they believe violates the rules,” the spokeswoman said. “We review all flagged videos quickly, and take down anything that violates the rules. Videos of kids fighting that get flagged will be removed.”
Schenectady schools Superintendent Laurence Spring said students have been fascinated with filming misbehavior and posting it to YouTube for years.
“I’ve been dealing with this for at least six years,” he said.
But the income idea is new.
“This is the first time I’ve heard anyone say they think they can make money,” he said.
Usually, he said, students film misbehavior to look cool.
“It’s ‘I want people to see I did this thing and I got away with it,’ ” Spring said.
YouTube is “very cooperative” in removing the videos, he said, adding quick removal discourages the behavior.
“But that’s a difficult race to run, with the speed some kids can put them up,” he said. “What’s more beneficial is figuring out who those kids are, who’s holding the phone.”
Then those students can be punished.
A search online Thursday quickly turned up two Schenectady fight videos, one filmed at the end of school in June and one filmed outside the high school this fall. When a Gazette reporter brought these videos to the attention of YouTube officials, the videos were quickly removed.
In the June video, one student boasted that he was creating “Mont Pleasant TV.” He delightedly announced at the end that he got the whole thing. His film shows two girls rolling in bushes, ripping at each other’s hair. But it also shows dozens of teenagers eagerly holding cellphones over the fighters’ heads, jostling to get a better angle for their recording.
When one of the two girls broke off the fight and staggered away, many of the watchers reached out to her, turning her around and pointing her in the direction of her assailant. They urged her to go back. But another girl intervened and led the young woman away. They got about 20 feet before the other girl caught up and the fight started again, but this time two adults broke it up.
The video had more than 1,200 views.
In the other film, one girl seemed to be speaking to the camera as she angrily described a list of grievances against another girl, who appeared to be texting and ignoring the situation. When she finally announced that she wanted a fight, the onlookers cheered as she ripped out the other girl’s hair extensions.
Three Schenectady High School staffers were needed to force the two girls apart, and the onlookers booed in disappointment when they stopped the fight.
Spring has seen several fights firsthand and said the behavior of the onlookers was “a little disturbing.”
“I think we need to be concerned,” he said. “That’s in and of itself anti-social and unhealthy behavior.”
Fights outside Mont Pleasant Middle School appear to have died down after weeks of police patrols this autumn. Teachers have been riding with police to identify misbehaving students, which helps police report them to Family Court. The hooligans are also being punished in school.
Spring said many students are also being suspended. But he said he’s still combatting problems in school, particularly staged fights for YouTube.
He’s not convinced all those fights are one-sided attacks; at least some, he said, have been planned by both combatants.
At a forum Wednesday, parent Vickie Salvo said her daughter was ambushed in the hallway, dragged into a school bathroom and beaten so students could film it. She said her daughter was not a willing participant in the fight.
But Spring said he learned differently when he investigated.
“What our investigation showed was not exactly what that parent presented,” he said.
He declined to detail what actually happened.
As for the films themselves, he said school officials have talked about banning camera phones.
“That’s an awfully difficult rule to enforce,” he said, but added, “If kids are really misusing the phones, that changes the equation a little bit. We’ve got to add that to our thinking.”
He wants to ask students at the school to help administrators write a policy to stop the fight videos.
He’ll say to them, “This is your community. How do you want it to be, and how do we help you make that?”
He’s confident most students want to stop the videos.
“I don’t believe the majority of our students like that,” he said.