Q&A with Associate Dean Alexander regarding fight in front of high school

Cleo Falvey and Valentina Rojas

On Monday, Sep. 12, a fistfight occurred between two girls on the steps outside after school.

During the Tuesday advisory following the fight, an announcement was made by Interim Headmaster Anthony Meyer about the role of bystanders in the fight.

The Sagamore sat down for a Q&A with Associate Dean Melanee Alexander in regards to the role bystanders played in the fight and how it has affected our community.

What was your personal reaction to the fight?

I saw the video and the part that makes me crazy is that there was such a lack of humanity in it all. Both of these girls have friends, there are some people out there who don’t like to see fights, and no one did anything. In fact, (in the video people shout), “Beat her ass!” It’s just the escalation of the inhumanity of it all makes me really sad.

What do you think the impact of the fight will be?

I’m hoping that with new leadership, we can and we have, approach incidents, whether they be racial or physical incidents, with more oomph. We’re going to investigate it, we’re going to talk to people, we’re going to finish the investigation, and we’re going to figure out what we need to do next to be proactive.

Administration was aware there was a dispute in the cafeteria earlier, and everybody thought the girls were taken care of.

I feel like we do a job that’s better than a lot of high schools in trying to understand students for the people they are, and we’re all flawed. So telling the truth is something we value here. Letting adults help students help themselves, that’s what we do. We want to be involved in students’ lives because we love kids! It’s not a high school where we don’t like working with young people. So the lying was very disappointing. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when everybody comes back because some folks are out for longer periods of time due to the severity of their involvement. Which I think also, I hope, makes a statement that we as administration recognize that when you fight, you gotta be out, but when you do what you’re asked to do, we’re going to value that you did everything we asked you to do.

You guys have kept it quiet with consequences. Is that on purpose?

I did say something in terms of the tiered response that we would give because fair is not always equitable. We like to have policies designed to protect everybody, and then we treat individuals as individuals and look at individual cases and that’s why our school is doing the right thing.

In homerooms we’ve gone over the circle of bullying; the bully, the victim, the people who are bystanders, or egging it on. How do you think these relationships were seen in the fight?

What surprised me was we had so many bystanders! (The Olweus curriculum) has been around helping us all figure out how we can move from doing nothing to doing just a little something. The fact that people did nothing, and then actually helped the situation get worse, makes it clear that there’s a disconnect between what we’re saying, teaching, and what’s actually happening. Your question is what would I say to the kids egging it on? The people who were videotaping and egging it on, I would say to them, “And what if that were you? Or someone you love? Your sister, brother, someone close to you. Is that how you would want to be treated?” Because that’s the basic lesson of it all.

How did you see the video about the fight?

We want people to feel safe to come and say, “I think this is gonna happen, it’s making me nervous, can you possibly do something about it.” I think the video was an attempt to give administrators a sense of how huge it was so we know how to proactively move forward. I don’t actually know where the video was from but it’s from an administrator which leads me to believe it was a student. And thank you to whoever that student was.

Is the high school planning on putting this behind us or is there going to be more emphasis on role of bystander / anti bullying campaign?

We have to do both, we have to look at the curriculum we use. Strictly it’s designed more for younger kids, and it doesn’t take into account all the other influences that older teenagers have to deal with. So there’s a simple, relatively straightforward lessons on cyberbullying, being mean to somebody, but it doesn’t handle nuance, so I think we need to do a better job of creating lessons that are going to be engaging for teenagers, for older teens, and so that’s one thing, but there are some fights that go down in people’s’ memory and this will be one of them because of what you said. We thought we had done what we needed to do during the day and it didn’t happen. We have to do a better job of helping students manage themselves and others outside after school, and we have to begin the process, or keep chipping away at the process of the cultural shift [towards], “I want to intervene on this kind of behavior, this kind of behavior is not who I want to be.”