Schools

Parents meet with school leaders to discuss Haverhill High fights

“This did not look like a typical high school cafeteria fight, it looked like something that would happen in a detention setting or in a prison.”

Days after a fight at Haverhill High that one school committee member likened to a prison brawl, parents met with school leaders to discuss the violence, according to Boston 25 News

The melee broke out in the school’s cafeteria last Wednesday. Seven minors are facing criminal charges, according to The Eagle-Tribune.

School Committeewoman Maura Ryan-Ciardiello told the newspaper she received several videos via social media of the fracas.

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“This did not look like a typical high school cafeteria fight, it looked like something that would happen in a detention setting or in a prison,” she said. “To see kids fighting while others were standing on tables cheering them on — with teachers or security guards being knocked to the ground — I feel for the staff members who are part of this and for students who are there to get an education and were not part of this. This wasn’t the first fight that happened this year and those involved need to be held accountable.”

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Since the start of the school year, 15 fights involving 44 students have occurred at Haverhill High, according to WHAV.

At the meeting Tuesday, Principal Jason Meland said the brawls were largely rooted in social media taunts outside of school hours, according to the radio station.

Superintendent Margaret Marotta said the students involved in the fights tend to be freshmen and sophomores, particularly those who did not have a normal transition from middle school to high school because of the pandemic.

Meland said the school is addressing the problems by increasing supervision in hallways, bathrooms and the cafeteria; more security sweeps targeting late students; adding a second school resource officer; and other steps, WHAV reports.

School parent Jenn Hafford, who is also an employee of the district, told Boston 25 News after the meeting that she’s still worried about sending her son, a freshman, to school each day.

“What concerns me the most is, when I talk to my son about it, it’s everyday, normal, behavior. ‘Oh, well. It’s just another day at school, Mom,’” Hafford said. “My fear is him being in the wrong place at the wrong time and getting hurt in the crossfire.”

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School Committeewoman Toni Sapienza-Donais said she added an item about the fights to the Nov. 18 School Committee agenda, according to The Eagle-Tribune.

She wants to discuss the measures that have been put in place to prevent the violence, she told the newspaper.

“The fights seem to be continuing, so whatever was put in place doesn’t seem to be working,” she said.

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