Guam Police, Department Of Education Discuss Fighting In Schools
Several recently posted online videos show violent altercations
By Shawn Raymundo
HAGÃ TÃA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 25, 2014) – The Guam Police Department and the Department of Education have been working closely to address the issue of fighting in the public schools, Police Chief Fred Bordallo told lawmakers yesterday afternoon.
The Legislature's education committee held a round-table discussion on the issue after several videos showing violent altercations between Guam students -- on and off campus -- were widely circulated through social media.
DOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said in the past several weeks the department has had to discipline 147 students for fighting. But he pointed out that 98 percent of the island's students don't participate in those activities.
Fernandez said he is confident in the ability of the department's administrators to intervene in the altercations and take swift action.
He also addressed the fights that occur outside of school grounds and said administrators have the authority to investigate those instances as well.
"This round table is not designed to go and blame anyone," Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, said. "We need to get the root of the problem and find solutions."
Earlier this month, a 17-second video depicting a violent altercation between a boy and a girl at Tiyan High School was posted to social media. The video shows the boy on top of the girl while he grabs her hair and bangs her head on the pavement several times.
Several more videos depicting fights among students have been posted in recent weeks.
Won Pat said the issue isn't just that kids are fighting, but that others are recording the fights and encouraging the violence.
"We see kids surrounding these fights with their cameras out. They're not stopping these fights. They're encouraging it," Won Pat said. "These kids are fighting in front of cameras to be famous. They think because you only live once, it's OK to be reckless with their lives."
She added that the Internet and media have played an influential role in the fighting because the students go home to watch videos that show violence.
"Media is very influential. I know that all of you are aware of that," Won Pat said. "Some of these things that kids see are going to make its way to the school's campus."
Dr. Juan Rapadas, a clinical psychiatrist with the Department of Youth Affairs, said there have been 55 juveniles arrested for fighting so far this year, compared to the 44 arrests last year.
He said the majority of the juveniles are boys between the ages of 16 and 17, however, the number of girls arrested increased from five to nine.
"We have to do something to wake them up," Rapadas said. "We're not talking about one or two incidents. We're talking about very violent incidents."
Sen. Brant McCreadie, R-Agana Heights, asked Bordallo if police have the authority to charge students for assault based on the videos posted.
Bordallo replied that police could charge the students for fighting and that they would also need victims' names and any medical records, if treatment was necessary, to substantiate the claims.
GPD and DOE have been working closely to eliminate the issue, Bordallo said, and he pointed out that many police officers are parents who are also concerned with their children's safety.