Police are investigating a group of students who have been filming fights at Schenectady High School.
The fights have been posted on a Facebook page called Schenectady Fights. The most recent video, from Oct. 6, shows a girl making sure a camera was rolling and then attacking another girl from behind. The video makes it clear the attacker and the filmer knew which girl was the target and raises questions about whether she was attacked solely for the purpose of creating a video.
The girl’s ponytail was yanked so hard she fell to the ground as she walked amid students to her next class. The attacker then dropped on top of her before the video ended.
Police spokesman Lt. Mark McCracken said police are investigating, but charges would depend on whether the students are juveniles. He added that the act of posting a video is likely not criminal — but starting a fight could be assault.
Superintendent Laurence Spring said he has suspended students this month because they attacked other students.
“Those are incidents where we suspend, when we think kids aren’t safe to be with other kids,” he said.
But for many other students involved, he’s looking for individualized treatment plans. Those have ranged from “simply” getting the student involved in a sport to assigning a caseworker who checks up on the student at home, he said.
The student who published the Facebook page will be reached in one way, while the one who films and orchestrates a fight needs a different approach, he said.
“It’s a different type of support and consequence” for each action, he said.
He’s also called in city police and Schenectady County sheriff’s deputies and probation officers to help him differentiate between gang members, wannabe gang members and students who just want to create fights for entertainment, he said.
“We’re trying to be sure we can tell the difference,” he said.
So far, 1,344 people have “liked” the Facebook page, which was created Sept. 23. But many recent posters have criticized the page, saying it was pathetic, promotes violence and makes Schenectady look bad.
The situation appears similar to a problem that grew out of control at Mont Pleasant Middle School last year. There, some parents reported their children were victimized for filming. At a public forum last year, parent Vickie Salvo said her daughter was dragged into a school bathroom during school hours by girls she thought were her friends. There, 11 students blocked the door and instructed her attacker on how best to beat her up while they recorded it on a smartphone, she said.
“They were saying, ‘Step on her head.’ ‘Grab her hair again.’ She grabbed her by her hair and slammed her head on the floor,” Salvo said. “My daughter fought with all her might to get out of there. No adult came to rescue her.”
Later, Spring said the incident didn’t happen that way.
“What our investigation showed was not exactly what that parent presented,” he said, though he declined to detail what actually happened.
At the high school, students have been allowed for the past year to use cellphones in the hallways between classes. That rule could be changed by administrators to stop the fight-filming, but Spring said the vast majority of the high school students haven’t encouraged the fights. Instead, he said, some students have actually intervened.
“Some of these kids are stepping in: ‘Uh uh, no you don’t, walk away,’” he said. “We’re beginning to see that positive peer pressure.”