Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.
A video shows three security workers gripping a girl while one of them forced her head to the table and then held her down by her hair in the cafeteria of Hazleton Area High School.
What the 20-second video circulating on social media since Monday afternoon doesn’t show is an argument that the girl started and three fights that ensued as students became more riled up, school officials said.
“There’s always two sides to a story. There’s extenuating circumstances leading up to what we saw on social media. … Please get both sides of the story before making judgment or calling judgment out on any individuals or the district,” Superintendent Brian Uplinger said.
By dismissal time on Tuesday afternoon, more than 60,000 people had watched the video on social media, and some viewers advocated firing a school policeman shown in the clip.
Edward Harry, school security director, said his officers followed procedures, whereas he is asking the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office to file charges against the girl and other students shown in the complete video.
“You see a couple seconds, if you want to take that out of context, (if) you’re not seeing the whole thing unfold, yeah, you might look at that and think something was done wrong here,” said Harry, making a comparison with videos from a incident between Kentucky students and a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18. “You need to look at the whole story.”
Uplinger said the public won’t see the entire video because the district’s solicitor advised against releasing it to protect the privacy of students, although Uplinger said he will talk with students and parents about it. The girl’s mother has watched it.
Harry, who studied the full video, said the girl started an argument and stood on a table in front of a vice principal, who told her to stop.
“She wasn’t having it,” said Harry, while describing the girl pushing away workers and friends who tried to hold her back.
Two of the girl’s friends went after the other girl in the argument.
Then guards restrained students in three parts of the cafeteria at once.
“It just escalated,” Harry said. “This was getting out of control, spiraling out of control very quickly, and we needed to gain control. There are 700 kids in the cafeteria.”
The cafeteria has been the scene this school year of several fights, which injured four security workers and sent one teacher to a hospital, said Harry, adding that no one was hurt on Monday.
A building plan that the school board is considering would enlarge the cafeteria further. Uplinger and Harry, however, said the new portion of the cafeteria would be within a wing for ninth-graders, and separating ninth-graders might reduce tensions in the main cafeteria.
To reduce tensions on Monday, a security worker wearing a red shirt led away one of the girls in the argument.
Meanwhile, three security workers subdued the girl who started the argument.
They were in a corner. A worker wearing a red shirt held the girl’s right side while another worker in a red shirt held her from behind. A school police officer, wearing a blue uniform, was on the girl’s left.
The officer swung his fist twice at the girl’s hands until she let go of the table in front of her. As the men with the red shirts bent her face down toward the table, the officer pushed her head down, pulled back his hand and then grabbed her hair to hold her on the table.
The exchange took 4 seconds.
“When that happened that got her attention,” Harry said. “You can see when she stopped, the officers stopped. That’s exactly the way it’s supposed to go.”
Harry said some students are out of control and start fights in the presence of police and faculty, but he pointed out that other students were just trying to eat lunch while ignoring the fight on Monday.
“If you don’t want to get involved in this nonsense in this school, you won’t,” he said.
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