In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the arrival of hot days sets “the mad blood stirring” and stokes violence between the Montagues and Capulets.
The shift to warmer weather also appears to set HHS students on edge. Eight of the 14 out-of-school suspensions for fighting this school year occurred during the spring semester, according to school records obtained by The Ville News.
“In warm weather it seems like we have more fights,” said School Resource Officer Joseph Hutcherson, who spent 24 years as a police officer before becoming an SRO this school year. “It was the same way when I was working the road. Warm weather you have more troubles.”
As recently as last week, two girls got into a fight in the old front lobby and had to be separated by an administrator.
School officials have developed strategies for dealing with fights. Hutcherson said the best method is to try to stop them before they start, usually by reading students’ body language.
“In my line of work, you're trained to do that,” Hutcherson explained. “As soon as you come on the scene, as soon as you’re on the traffic stop, you read someone’s body language and determine whether this person is going to fight you or whether he is going to comply and be nice and be on his merry way.”
The first-year SRO added that, “I was shocked to see that most principals, assistant principals are either trained to do it or have learned to do it over the years.”
Assistant Principal Thomas Oglesby is particularly good at picking up on these non-verbal cues, according to Hutcherson.
“I’ve noticed Mr. Oglesby will do this quite a bit - if he sees a student walking in the hallway that appears mad, agitated, or depressed, I’ve always seen him stop (the student and talk with him or her), and I’ve tried to do the exact same thing.”
Hutcherson and Oglesby estimate that they have prevented “countless” confrontations this way.
Oglesby thinks many of of the fights at HHS begin with comments posted on social media.
“I think a lot of people make comments on social media that they normally would not make face-to-face. And I think that stirs some emotions,” Oglesby said.
“However,” he continued, “I feel like anytime you have a school of this size with many diverse cultures, different people, you are going to have some issues and I think that we’re tasked with trying to teach young people how to deal with those issues in a more appropriate way.”
Hutcherson has some advice for students thinking about dealing with their anger by fighting, which carries a penalty of automatic out-of-school suspension.
“It’s not worth it. You’re going to get in trouble,” he said. “The best bet if you’re having issues with someone and you are unable to solve it yourself, come talk to me, come talk to one of the principals. Nine times out of 10 we can get it resolved. A lot of times it’s just a simple miscommunication issue.”
Story by Ava Heeren and Mandy Pirtle