No need to sensationalize what happens in our schools

I picked up my daughter from school the other day and the first words out of her mouth were, “Mom, there was a fight in the cafeteria today.” She’s in 5th grade.

Two hours later, I picked up my son from his after school activity and guess what he said – “Mom, there was a fight in the cafeteria today. He’s in 9th grade.

Two different schools, two different situations.

Fights in school are nothing new. I remember them from my own school experience. Elementary students fight over who should be first in line or over an incident that happened in the neighborhood or at the bus stop. Middle school students fight over a boy (usually) or a game disagreement in gym class. In high school it’s typically about a relationship or something someone said about someone else.

Hudson.Col.MugI bet most of us can remember fights that took place when we were in school. I won’t go so far to say fighting in school is expected but it would be surprising if it never happened. Anytime you have a large number of people together – especially during the school aged years – the likelihood of a fight breaking out is pretty high. It’s not just in school either. The pre-teen and teenage years are turbulent and fights can happen anywhere; in the mall, at the movies, at sporting events or concerts.

There is nothing new or unique or surprising about two kids fighting. A fight – in and of itself – has certainly never been a reason to alert the media. What is different now?

Technology is different. And so is social media. Today a fight takes place and within seconds the student body has heard about it. Within minutes it is posted on social media and shared among hundreds of students and their ‘friends’. Today a fight can be recorded with a simple push of a button on a cell phone and shared with others just as easily.

What is different now is society’s insatiable need for information when it happens (RIGHT NOW). Gone are the days of waiting until a full investigation has taken place. We hear of something happening and we want to know everything instantaneously – which almost always results in wrong information being shared.

Anyone who has ever been on the investigative side of things knows it takes work and time to sort through all the details. It’s easy to look on the surface of a situation and jump to the wrong conclusion. I bet we’ve all done that in our own homes with our own children. Getting to the bottom of a story entails knowing that there may be many layers to work through in order to have a full understanding of what happened.

What is astounding to me is how quickly we, as a society, make assumptions about certain situations. We see two students fighting – one black, one white – and we assume it is racially motivated. Two African American males fighting must be gang related. Two females fighting has to be about a guy.

Without knowing any of the facts or having all the details we simply cannot make these assumptions. By doing so we are creating the problem. We are blowing things out of proportion. We are exploiting the actions of children. We are stirring tensions and emotions and rumors.

Two students fighting is not world news. A fight is a fight. Sensationalizing a fight is fueling the fire and further dividing us, not bringing us together. What we need are the facts and the facts only. With the facts we can begin to bridge the divide (if there is one) with open, honest discussion and collaborative problem solving. We need to ensure that we – the adults, the media, the community – are not part of the problem but instead are working together for the best outcome for all.

Kim Hudson is a member of Wicomico County’s school board. Contact her at tkhudson@comcast.net.

 

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