Teachers followed proper procedure in breaking up Bangor High fight, says principal

Posted Oct. 24, 2013, at 7:24 p.m.
Paul Butler
Courtesy photo
Paul Butler

BANGOR, Maine — Teachers at Bangor High School followed proper procedure during an altercation between two girls on Tuesday morning, according to principal Paul Butler.

Video of the incident that took place outside of the cafeteria was recorded by another student and distributed on Facebook.

The altercation between the two girls lasted 49 seconds based on the video, said Butler.

A teacher noticed the fight, attempted to intervene with a verbal command, assessed the situation, determined that assistance was needed to break up the altercation and then got assistance.

“I support that decision,” said Butler, who declined to identify the teachers involved in the incident. “The teacher on duty did what was expected.”

It took 12 seconds for the first teacher at the scene to give the verbal command to stop. After determining assistance was needed and seeking help, it was another 29 to 30 seconds before the second teacher intervened, Butler said.

Bangor schools have adopted the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Program model of the Crisis Prevention Institute, said Butler. Teachers are trained annually on how to use the model, which focuses on defusing hostile behavior through verbal and nonverbal methods that avoid injury.

The State Department of Education rule governing physical restraint allows teachers to physically intervene when the behavior of a student presents a risk of injury or harm to the student or others. A brief period of physical contact necessary to break up a fight is specified as exempt from the rule, meaning it is allowed.

“I believe in our teachers. They work hard at their jobs,” he said.

Because the fight was recorded and distributed on the Internet and participants could be identified, Butler was reluctant to give details on discipline handed down to any students involved. He would say only that discipline has been assessed.

According to Bangor High School’s student handbook, a student can be suspended for up to 10 days for fighting.

Butler declined to comment on whether anyone involved in the incident required medical treatment for injuries, citing privacy regulations.

No one has been charged with a crime related to the fight as of Thursday, according to the Bangor Police Department, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be charges in the future. Butler said he has communicated with the school resource officer about the incident.

The student who recorded the fight and distributed it on the Internet also faces disciplinary action, Butler said.

“It’s our belief that any student who promotes violence by filming or abetting is subject to discipline,” said Butler.

Students who see a fight are encouraged to get help.

“The number one thing is to get help,” said Butler. “That’s the baseline advice I’d give to any student is to get help.”

Butler said counseling is available to help disciplined students resume their academic pursuits and avoid future problems.

“Bangor High School has great kids,” he said. “These situations are not frequent. I don’t think this incident reflects the character of our students.”

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