Rash of girl fights breaks out at Sonoma Valley High School

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Numerous fights have broken out at Sonoma Valley High School in recent days, all of them involving girls, and officials said they do not know the reasons but are cautioning students that fighting will not be tolerated.

“There have been several instances of girls fighting recently,” said Justin Mori, principal of Sonoma Valley High School. “We are still investigating to determine (the) underlying causes.”

There was also a rash of calls to law enforcement involving girls, but there were no arrests as a result and, in at least one instance, responding officers reported that the youth who were at the scene said “nothing” happened, according to Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Jon Anderson.

Gavin Lehane, Student Voice for the Associated Student Body, said he believed there were nine fights during the week of March 4 through 8, but none on Monday, March 11, as of press time.

The atmosphere in school last week was “chaotic,” Lehane said. He didn’t witness any of the fights directly, but did see “crowds” of people “rush” to watch the fights and he found videos of some posted on social media sites such as Snapchat, he said.

If he had witnessed a fight, he said he would have stepped in to stop it.

“I do not tolerate fights,” Lehane said.

On March 7, Mori sent an email to parents regarding the number “of physical altercations between students on campus this week” explaining that the “incidents present a threat to student safety and result in disciplinary action” that could include up to a “five day suspension and the potential for additional action depending on severity and repeat offenses.”

Lehane, too, said he does not approve of students filming the incidents, and Mori pointed that out in his email to parents saying that bystanders and students recording or filming a fight “can be considered an accomplice or co-conspirator” and could also face disciplinary action. Instigators of fights will also be subjected to punishment, Mori wrote.

The act of shouting or pretending that there is a fight occurring has also happened at the school, even when there had been no fight. That, too, will be punished, Mori wrote.

This, the winter season, is the most anxiety-ridden time of year at the school, Lehane said, and kids don’t feel a sense of “unity.” He believes that some of the angst in the school lately was because there were no events for students to rally around, such as homecoming or graduation. In a “surprising” twist, he said he thinks the Mr. Dragon event that last month was enveloped in its own cloak of controversy, actually helped draw students together.

“We had record breaking attendance” at the Mr. Dragon event, which is a spoof on beauty pageants. In recent weeks the event drew criticism from some students because the name of the event is gender-based and exclusive of anyone female, nonbinary or transgender. A group of students protested the event last Thursday by holding up signs, but otherwise did not disturb the event.

Mr. Dragon “brought a lot of spirit, brought a lot of joy,” to the school, Lehane said, and will likely be renamed next year.

Sonoma Police Sgt. Greg Piccinini said that school officials asked the department to send an officer to the school daily to create a presence and “send the message” that violence will not be tolerated. Police presence at the school was increased during and after a school shooting hoax that occurred the last week of February.

Lehane credits the school administration for being “on their toes” and acting swiftly to curb any and all fighting, and the filming and posting of any incidents. He has seen administrators pull students off to the side and counsel them about their behavior, he said.

School officials have cracked down on student gatherings, he said, and he believes that is helping to quell the situation.

“I still have faith that Sonoma High can be a safe campus,” Lehane said.

Email Anne at anne.ernst@sonomanews.com.

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