Shawnee Heights Students Posting Fights Online Raises Worries

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Recent social media videos point to school fights on the rise within the Shawnee Heights School District but administrators believe they are attacking the problem head-on to avoid a permanent black eye.

USD 450 Shawnee Heights Superintendent Marty Stessman says 22 violent incidents have led to 10 expulsions or suspensions within the school district which is more than in years past. Making matters worse, more people are seeing those fights, through videos posted on YouTube, leaving some to wonder if technology is giving kids an appetite for violence.

"Right now we are not sure if there is a correlation. if this is a one year bump and will return to normal next year or if it is the beginning of a trend for us," said Dr. Stessman.

Stessman believes fights on social media are a double edged sword. While they give the school district a public black eye, they have provided valuable evidence for school officials.

He said, "One of the fights happened in a locker room where we never would have known about but we had discovered the evidence online and we were able to move through the disciplinary process."

Superintendent Stessman says the school district is taking a proactive approach at elementary and middle schools in an attempt to cut down future violence.

"We have taken elements of being a good digital citizen and are weaving it into 4th and 5th and 6th grade and certainly 7th and 8th grade. It would take a whole team of psychologists and sociologists to tell us whether social media is causing it or reacting to it. Right now we need to teach these kids how to resolve conflict better and how to be better digital citizens."

In comparison to the 10 suspensions or expulsions at the Shawnee Heights School District, the Kansas Department of Education says during the 2012-2013 school year USD 501 had less than 10 suspensions or expulsions due to violent acts resulting in injury. However, they did have 872 violent acts district wide that did not result in injury.