School fights caught on camera and shared on social media raise concern among parents and call for moderation

FORT LAUDERDALE — South Florida public schools are on spring break after weeks of disruption.

Those disruptions last Thursday included several fights over lunch at Northwestern Senior High School in Miami, which also included arrests that took place outside of the school.

And the week before, numerous brawls broke out over lunch in the yard at Ft Lauderdale High School. Some students were upset that classmates were knocking on doors to get into classrooms when the school went into lockdown

The Broward School District said more than 30 students were disciplined during the incident, which brought counselors to campus the next day to help students despondent over the chaos

Broward School Board member Allen Zeman said there were false alarms at Stranahan High School and Sunrise Middle School on the same day the fighting took place in Fort Lauderdale.

The following Monday, Fort Lauderdale High School went into lockdown again after an unfounded threat

CBS News Miami spoke to two mothers with children enrolled at Ft Lauderdale High School who were troubled by the incidents

“It was a mess,” said the mother to Analia Tower. “It didn’t look like school.”

Tower says her daughter is considering dropping out of school because of the disruptions

Tower says of her daughter texting her about the court brawls, “I started praying because I felt like she was safe. And she texted me and said, ‘I’m never sure.'”

Another mother says her daughter was traumatized when the school was closed on March 13 because of an unfounded threat

“She was freaking out and everyone was crying,” the parent said.

Knowing safety is a top priority, the parent says schools could do better not to alert students when a threat is reported.

“I think there are a lot of safety measures that they don’t need to know about so they don’t live in fear,” she said.

Jaime Alberti, chief of security for the Broward School District, said the number of fights on campus has decreased, but things seem to be worse because “more social media is connected to what’s happening.”

Alberti said while there was less fighting, visibility was increasing.

Students record what happens on mobile phones and post it via online social media sites.

“Children should speak to school leaders or an adult about a threat because the amount of misinformation makes people nervous,” he said.

Miami-Dade Public Schools officials also say the number of fights on their campus has decreased, but like Broward, students are recording incidents and posting them on social media

To gain further insight into the impact of disruption, we spoke to three Broward teachers from each grade level

A middle and high school elementary school teacher

“Kids are restless and the principal sometimes locks down the school before it escalates,” said middle school teacher Valencia W., adding that any disruption leads to less learning.

Longtime high school teacher Maurizio DiSciullo said cell phones and social media contribute to disruption at school.

“Texts are often exchanged online and escalate into hostile reactions,” he said.

Jacqueline B. says she was not kept up to date when it was revealed a kindergartener had threatened to bring a gun into school. The student is in her class.

“I think we need better communication,” she said. “All included and that didn’t happen.”

All three say teachers need to be paid better and parents need to play a bigger role.

And everyone agrees that some controls should be imposed on students who record incidents and share videos on social media.

“Everything but 911 calls should be blocked,” DiSciullo said.

Broward’s interim superintendent, Dr. Earlean Smiley said there were no easy fixes and agreed that the use of cellphones and social media at school was part of the problem.

“We need to educate students and help their parents,” Smiley said. “Understand that there is a place and a time. Hopefully the parents will help us stabilize the tools.”

After losing her daughter in the Parkland shooting, Lori Alhadeff says safety must come first.

She says her nonprofit organization, Make our Schools Safe, encourages students to be part of the solution

“It’s going to be different at every school,” she said. “It is important that the students feel comfortable in order to prevent violence.”

Joan Murray