It has been a week since nearly 60 teenagers were arrested after a brawl at the Orange Park Mall that sent families running towards safety and calling for help. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the fight, but believe it started as an argument on Facebook that spilled into the mall.
Students from both Clay and Duval counties were involved in the brawl. Fights involving students from Duval County Public Schools is one of the many issues district leaders are trying to combat. “It starts at home, we really need more parents to step up,” said Andrew George, a former middle school dean.
Through a public records request, Duval County Public Schools released the number of fights happening within a three-month period. According to the numbers, nearly 1200 fights have broken out during that time frame. According to statistics from the Florida Department of Education, Duval County ranked first among the larger districts with the number of fights during the 2015-2016 school year.
Over 50 fights have happened in just one school over the 2016-2017 school year. The most fights, according to DCPS are happening in middle schools. Arlington Middle School leads the county with the most fights, 57 so far this school year. George said the numbers are alarming. “Eleven-hundred fights, and there is still four weeks left in the school year,” said George.
The school district responded to the numbers in a statement that reads, “The three-month snapshot requested does not provide the depth required to gauge the number of physical altercations that have occurred in our schools. In fact, if one includes all physical altercation codes in the code of conduct, as compared to last year, the number of fights have decreased from 10,155 to 9,928. District officials and school leadership remain committed to reducing the number of physical altercations in our schools and providing a safe and positive atmosphere for our students. Intervention strategies include counseling, in school and out of school suspensions, behavior contracts, peer-to-peer mediation, and classes for parents and students through our parent academy and student options for success programs.”
In addition to the mentioned strategies, DCPS is also teaming up with dozens of programs to keep children busy and out of trouble over the summer months. The Team-Up program and Boys and Girls Clubs deal with the inner city youth, providing students the opportunity to enjoy sports and recreation for a very low cost or for free. “Parents are working two and three jobs just to make ends meet, these programs will help keep the children safe and entertained this summer and the parents will not have to spend a lot of money,” said George.