They were kids, just having a good time….good kids visiting a neighboring City for an athletic competition. While there is absolutely NO excuse for the violence that occurred in the lobby of the Middletown High School, and more skirmishes later in the parking lot, during last week’s NFA/Middletown Basketball Game, it is quite understandable that teenagers trying to safely cross the county to cheer on their team, asking other friends for a ride home afterward would get very upset when much more people were allowed in the school than capacity allowed, and then told to leave….to go outside in 18 degree weather with little to no warning and many with no options to get somewhere safe and warm. Things escalated when the teens showed some resistance and one girl yelled when a police officer took her by the shoulders to push her outside when the teens refused. When she yelled for the officer to “Get your hands off me”, her friends wondered whether she could be in trouble and things escalated even more. Again, there is no excuse for the teens not following police orders. But there is also no excuse for the kids to be put in that position in the first place. How did SO many people get in the area over the capacity to begin with?
Needless to say, the event is now history, but we STRONGLY URGE educators and school officials not to play the blame game that was seen in media this week, and especially not to blame the video of the escalation on social media. It happened, and people have the right to see the video. And though it was an awful situation, we are glad that apparently there were no serious injuries.
What is most important is to put forth whatever effort is necessary to make a plan that ensures this kind of brawl NEVER happens again. Give some counseling for the kids so they understand that much as they are excited to show their school spirit and cheer their team on for a win, it’s just a game, and certainly not worth damaging their own or their school’s reputation, let alone risk being arrested. Secondly, if a game is expected to have large numbers who want to attend, warn the students ahead of time, have a bus ready if the building is at risk of going over capacity, set up a space at their own high school where they can watch the game on a big screen TV in a supportive semi-party atmosphere where they feel they are participating in an equally fun way, with less stress and risk. And praise the dickens out of them when they do the right thing.
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