Communities across MA dealing with increase in fighting at local high schools

LAWRENCE, Mass. — A recent uptick in fighting at schools across the commonwealth has schools taking action. Viral videos have proved an increase in fights in several high schools.

“It’s crazy, all these kids fight for no reason,” said Worcester parent Elizabeth Gonzalez. “To me, it has a lot to do with the parents.”

One of those parents, Jacqueline Sabino, faces assault and disorderly conduct charges after getting arrested along with four students in Lawrence Wednesday.

“She was not happy with her daughter being arrested,” said Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque. “She got involved, and as a result was charged with a few things. So, it’s unfortunate to see, we certainly would like to see our adults help us in that situation [to] de-escalate things.”

Related: Additional police assigned to Lawrence High School following series of fights

The Lawrence Police Chief said they’ve increased staffing both in and out of school after seeing more fights at the start of this school year compared to others.

“Usually, it slows down, so we’re hoping that’s the case,” Vasque said. “In talking to other chiefs and different communities, they’re also seeing an uptick in this type of thing.”

One of those other communities is Worcester. The nighttime football games there will be moved to daylight hours because of recent fighting at Foley Stadium.

“We felt during the day there would be more of an opportunity to let people know and let the spectators know that, if you cause trouble, we’re going to most likely be able to identify you,” said Worcester School Safety Director Rob Pezzella.

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“Anything for safety, I think that’s good,” Elizabeth Gonzalez said. “There really are no words to describe it, it’s just crazy. These kids are going crazy.”

Worcester said they are also looking at the upcoming basketball season. The indoor gyms will be more confined, so they are looking at changing the times of those basketball games in addition to limiting capacity.

Lawrence said it will have a slew of changes:

Personnel additions:

  • Addition of four School Culture Specialists to support our daily operations
  • Additional full-time School Resource Officer for a total of four officers and one sergeant
  • Two Community Policing Officers
  • Additional patrols will continue to be conducted around neighboring LHS areas as students arrive in the morning and are dismissed

Operational changes:

  • Change schedule to reduce the time and the amount of students eating lunch in the cafeteria (effective 10/18). This change will reduce the number of students transitioning during most blocks and the number of students present during dismissal, allowing seniors in internships/directed study to leave before release
  • Staggered dismissal to continue, to reduce the number of students waiting for buses at the same time
  • Frequent routine check-ins of school bathrooms by culture deans and school administrators
  • Enforcement of school uniforms across the campus; families will receive a second notice this week
  • LHS will require all students to wear a photo ID and an academy-specific lanyard
  • Creation of Campus Restorative Justice Center, a space dedicated to students serving in-house suspension as well as students that need additional social and emotional support. This space will consist of a school culture specialist, counselor, and social worker. The Center will be open within the next two weeks.

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