Students, admin struggle to define consistent fight-video discipline

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Students, admin struggle to define consistent fight-video discipline

(AMY ADAMSON/EYE OF THE TIGER)

(AMY ADAMSON/EYE OF THE TIGER)

(AMY ADAMSON/EYE OF THE TIGER)

(AMY ADAMSON/EYE OF THE TIGER)

AMY ADAMSON

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Several Roseville High School students received administrative discipline, varying from phone confiscation to suspension, for their involvement in school fights on campus.

Sophomore Paige Pickard edited a fight video to music and sent it to fellow sophomore Gabriella Robles, resulting in a conference with assistant principal Jason Wilson, who suspended Pickard and Robles for three days.

However, sophomore Kailah Gonzales was suspended for five days for being involved in the fight and was put on student conduct while Sydney Atchison, who was involved in the altercation with Gonzalez, did not receive a punishment.

In the middle of August, freshman Lauren Matlock and another freshman were involved in a physical altercation. This resulted in a five-day suspension for Matlock, who was also put on student conduct. There was no punishment for the other freshman.

According to Pickard, Robles had asked Pickard to make the edited version of the video so Robles could post it on social media. When Pickard sent the new version to Robles, she used the words “post it” which was considered by assistant principal Matt Pipitone to be an act of bullying, resulting in Pickard’s suspension.

“I don’t exactly feel that my suspension was justified. I understand that what I did was wrong and I understand that I shouldn’t have ever made that video,” Pickard said. “It’s just kinda hard to catch up, just for making a video and telling someone to ‘post it’ even though I didn’t actually say anything to anybody or post it on any social media.”

According to Attorney Advocate Adam Goldstein, there would have to be more evidence than just an administrator’s “subjective opinion” to determine that the video constitutes of bullying.  

“So in order to qualify as bullying in the first place, there would have to be something about the decision to post the video that would make it possible for a student to reasonably predict that the people in the video would feel so bullied by posting it that it would prevent them from going to school,” Goldstein said. “And that’s just to meet the definition of bullying.”

Freshman Joclyn Canstancio-Loredo, posted a fight video on her social media account in late August and did not receive any punishment for posting it. According to Canstancio-Loredo, when she went to the office to talk to Pipitone, she was only told to take the video down.

“It is unfair for each student that they are doing it differently, and I think each person should [be] equally in trouble,” Canstancio-Loredo said. “Is unfair because if you’re equally involved in [something] then both people should get equally in trouble for it.”

According to principal David Byrd, the school follows an outline of discipline from California Education Code, and from there the four assistant principals decide together on a gauge for appropriate punishment for specific students and specific cases.

Senior Ralph Lualhati was also suspended for three days after posting a fight video on social media.

According to Lualhati, when brought up to the office to talk to assistant principal Matt Pipitone, he was told that his suspension was for instigating and provoking a fight.

“I think the way they handled my suspension was a little too much, being suspended for three days because I was posting a video online about a fight, but they accused me of starting a fight or provoking a fight,” Lualhati said. “I was yelling or whatever. I did not start that fight. I was just there for the fight.”

According to Lualhati, Pipitone explained that using the phrases “swing” and “punch her” was enough to deserve a three-day suspension.

According to Pipitone, when one posts a fight video on social media, it is considered a form of harassment and you risk the chance of being suspended.

“[Pipitone] said Ralph was instigating a fight, but technically everyone watching the fight is instigating because they’re not doing anything about it to stop it,” junior and fight spectator Larry Melnik said.

According to Lualhati, while talking to Pipitone, he offered to take the video off his social media account, but Pipitone wanted to give him a consequence and suspended him in hopes he would not record fights anymore.

“I was pretty surprised I got suspended,” Lualhati said. “I was expecting a Saturday school or a detention, but [admin] made me miss school for three days for posting something on my account.”

Lualhati took the post of the video off his social media account.

California Education Code 48900 describes bullying as “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils.”

According to Byrd, there needs to be some consistency from assistant principal to assistant principal.

“It’s like any legal code,” Byrd said. “There is a wide range of interpretation and hopefully it gives administrators the latitude to use their judgement to figure out what is going to be in the best interest of the school, and the best interest of the student that might be involved.”

Canstancio-Loredo would also like to see more consistency.  

“When stuff like this happens, [assistant principals] should go to more people and ask them for their opinion rather than just following and choosing their opinion and they have to work on it,” Canstancio-Loredo said.

Sophomore Santino Jordan’s phone was confiscated for five days by Pipitone. According to Jordan, he was watching the recorded video on his phone right after the fight. Pipitone then confiscated the phone and did not receive permission from Jordan to go through it.

According to Jordan, he then asked Pipitone if he could have his phone back, but Pipitone would not give it back.                                                                                                                                                       

Matlock’s mom Heather Christensen, is thankful for the fight video taken of her daughter.  

“In Lauren’s case, the video actually showed that the girl did touch Lauren and that they made the wrong decision and even when I tried pointing that out to the vice principal and still would not in any way shape or form, would not admit [that],” Christensen said. “In many ways that video proved that the decision he made was the wrong one and he was not willing to admit that.”

According to Pipitone, filming a fight video creates a hostile educational environment for the students involved in the video. 

According to Gonzalez, she was not informed that she was on student conduct until she asked Wilson if she could still go to homecoming and was banned from going.

“I wish he would have understood from [where] I was coming from because I don’t know what the other girl was telling [Wilson], but he believed whatever she was saying and he did not ever listen to me,” Gonzalez said. “Whenever I was telling him  my part of the story he would always be so defensive over her and then so he just never thought what I was saying [was true].”

According to Matlock, when she was brought up to the office to talk to Pipitone, she felt unheard in the conversation of her discipline.

“They need to be more understanding about everything, even if it has to do with taking days just to figure out what happened and get the real story,” Matlock said. “I feel like they wanted to rush it and get it over with because it’s probably normal, it happens all the time. I think they need to realize it’s not always just one person, it takes two to cause a fight.”

According to Matlock, she does not feel that posting a fight video online should be considered bullying or harassment.

“Everyone was there and everyone was bound to take videos and just posting it, I don’t think it’s bullying because it’s their opinion,” Matlock said.

Pipitone, however, sees this as a violation of privacy.

“Students have a reasonable right to privacy on campus and it is rare to have both parties agree to have a video of them fighting,” said Pipitone.

According to Christensen the school had many inconsistencies with their stated policy that could have been prevented.

“There was so many breakdowns – one, the school being notified; two, the school not notifying me in a timely manner; and three those girls should have been pulled out of school immediately; four, the other girl got away with bullying and taunting on campus,” Chrestensen said. “If the school is not going to act on cyberbullying [and] the drama that goes on behind the doors, how on earth can they only act on the physical side?”