Videos posted to social media sites showing fights involving teenagers from area schools have raised questions about what consequences – if any – the teens in the videos or the people who made and posted the videos should face.
The Nez Perce County Prosecutor’s Office is beginning the process to determine whether charges will be filed after a collection of the graphic fight videos posted to a Facebook page came to light Monday.
Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Uhrig issued a statement about the situation Wednesday, indicating law enforcement agencies from multiple jurisdictions are investigating in coordination with school districts. Investigating agencies include the Lewiston and Clarkston police departments and the Nez Perce County and Latah County sheriff’s offices, according to Uhrig.
Clarkston Police Chief Joel Hastings said officers were looking through videos on a Facebook page titled LCV Fights when the page was taken down Monday.
“It’s hard to watch,” he said.
The videos appear to have been recorded over several months, and Clarkston officers noticed at least two fights they already had investigated, Hastings said.
Hastings said it’s common for fights between teens to be recorded by other teenagers, but seeing a page solely for fight videos was a new development for the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.
“They get posted to social media, to somebody’s Facebook, but not one Facebook (page) dedicated to multiple fights,” he said. “This one was just a site dedicated to all these altercations one after another.”
Uhrig said filming an altercation isn’t illegal itself, but there could be circumstances that make it a crime.
“In and of itself, no,” Uhrig said. “It really depends if someone was encouraging someone; exchanging of currency – there are so many factors.”
The same is true for posting such videos online.
“Again, it depends,” Uhrig said. “There are so many factors that go into it. No, for somebody that just does that one time. But then it depends, again, was it for profit? Was there encouraging? Then you start looking at were the kids underage.”
A gray area for schools
Clarkston School District Superintendent Tim Winter said he could not comment about whether any Clarkston students are part of the investigation.
“We’re doing our part and the legal system is doing their part,” Winter said. “Legally we can’t talk about student discipline, but I can assure you that we are dealing with the things we need to at Clarkston High.”
Making or posting a video could be grounds for discipline in Clarkston schools if it interfered with other students’ ability to learn, he said.
“When an event occurs outside of school, we have to make a determination. If it happens on a school day it’s a little easier. If it happens on a weekend, it’s a little more difficult,” Winter said. “The way we look at it is, if it affects the learning environment, then we deal with it. It’s a judgment call, so every situation is different.”
Winter said he had not viewed any of the videos, but given what he’s heard he expects better of students.
“I would hope the laws of civility would come into play where students would break up fights, not just stand there and video,” he said. “In a civil society, that’s what I hope people would do.”
Kendrick School District Superintendent Lindsay Park said two girls seen fighting in a video recorded outside Juliaetta Elementary on March 9 are attending school and doing fine. The students from Kendrick Junior-Senior High School fought after being transported from Kendrick to Juliaetta as part of the district’s standard busing routes.
“We can’t reveal the names of the students or how they were actually disciplined,” Park said. “But they were disciplined.”
The video, posted to a Lewiston student’s Facebook page Friday, had more than 10,000 views by Saturday.
Though the two students were seen in what appeared to be a serious fight with punches thrown and one of the girls falling to the ground, Park said neither was badly injured.
“These girls are both back in school, and we’re trying to carry on as best we can in the wake of it,” Park said.
Lewiston High School Assistant Principal Chad Arlint said the student who allegedly posted the Juliaetta video and many others is a student at the Lewiston school. But Arlint said he could not comment on whether the student was disciplined. He said Nez Perce County Sheriff Joe Rodriguez visited students at Lewiston High School this week regarding the fight videos.
Arlint said he has not viewed the videos, but his understanding is that some of them were several months old. Posting a video of students fighting could be grounds for discipline, depending on where the video was made and the effects of sharing it, he said.
“If they posted videos that took place here at school, yes,” Arlint said. “If it’s outside school and it carries over to interfering with the educational process, we could look at that also.”
‘Moral and ethical question’
Latah County Sheriff’s Lt. Brannon Jordan said the Juliaetta case has been forwarded to the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson is out of town and unavailable for comment this week.
“It’s been sent up to the prosecutor, and they’re going to review the case and make a charging decision,” Jordan said. “They look at the case as a whole when we send it up.”
Whether there could be any charges against the person who made or posted the video remains unclear.
“I don’t know what that charge would be, if any,” Jordan said.
In a follow-up email, Park called the issue of making and posting fight videos “a moral and ethical question.”
“I don’t understand why this person didn’t put the smartphone down to break up the fight,” he said. “There is something hugely wrong when a witness to a fight thinks it is more important to video the incident for a Facebook posting than it is to prevent someone from getting hurt.”
The student who recorded the fight went through the same bullying prevention training other Kendrick School District students receive, Park said. The training will be augmented, he said, to address decision-making during such situations.
School district employees work hard to prevent incidents like the fight, and the recorded fight was the first one this school year in the district, Park said. He added that since the fight happened, the district has instituted additional supervision.
“Our schools are safe, particularly here in Kendrick, because of the lengths we go to,” he said.
If people see fight videos of area students being posted to social media, Uhrig said, they should contact their local police department or sheriff’s office.
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