D91 seeks mediation after fight

Cavallo says priority is dialogue over punishment

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By Maria Maxham

On Sept 6., Forest Park Middle School Principal Joseph Pisano spent most of the day meeting with students and parents to mediate a situation that unfolded Thursday after school and off school property. The precipitating event involved several middle-school students fighting at the park district. The fight was videotaped and posted on social media. Although the video was removed from Forest Park-related Facebook groups, it sparked comments and controversy.

Louis Cavallo, District 91 superintendent, said that even though the incident happened off school property and outside school hours, mediating these types of conflicts between students is important. 

"We're a small community. What happens outside of school carries into school," he said. Cavallo mentioned that it's not the first time D91 school officials have facilitated dialogue between students and parents for conflicts that took place outside of school. He stressed that the mediation "was not about consequences. It's about fixing the problem."

One of his biggest concerns about the incident, though, was the fact that it was posted on Facebook. 

"Adults need to think twice before posting videos of children," Cavallo said. And the nature of the comments was problematic as well. "Some commenters were saying 'lock them up' about the children in the video. They're children," he said, adding that if the kids in the video had been white, people would probably have said, "It's just boys being boys." Because they were African American, though, the comments were harsher. 

"This is a conversation that needs to happen," Cavallo said. "It comes down to the issue of equity and bias."

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Reader Comments

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Patricia Thomas  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 10:29 AM

Michelle you are right on point. And, as one of the grandparents of one of those boys, we sat for hours coming up with solutions for our kids. No one condones fighting to resolve issues and I thought we had made that clear to the parents. But clearly we did not do enough because the police was "still" called on these boys. Yes, there is a difference in the way young African American kids are handled when they do wrong. And the cycle continues with handling young African American kids with the police instead of positive interaction.

Naoto Hasegawa from Forest Park, IL  

Posted: September 12th, 2019 6:09 PM

While I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion, I may say, from a minority's perspective, it is about race to many of us at the end of the day. Of course, I will never, ever understand this from a perspective of an African American as I am not one. However, as someone who has experienced my own share of racial taunting, it is something that is always in the back of my head and I am extremely cognizant of it, especially given the current political climate. I think it's something that you have to experience it in order to grasp the humiliation and disgust that is associated with it. Am glad to see that Dr. Cavallo understands this and D91 is doing something about it so that we can all come to a reconciliation.

Karen Margaret  

Posted: September 12th, 2019 11:35 AM

Michelle, you are entitled to your opinion as am I. I also saw all the comments and there was one person who said something we all thought was uncalled for. The mother of the child who was being followed and then jumped on is the one who posted the video. She wanted proof and the children to be identified. There were people on the street that called the police as well. There was not one comment made about race. It was totally a case of bullying. It needs to be addressed by not just the schools but our community as a whole. The video was horrible! I think this is not a race issue and race should not be brought into it. Like I said for an administrator of our school district to say if they were white children OUR parents would have looked at the situation differently is offensive. That is just my opinion. I will continue to be an advocate for all of our children.

Michelle Woehrle  

Posted: September 11th, 2019 1:37 PM

Having seen the comments unfold, Dr. Cavallo is right to admonish of the adults in town who called for locking up the minors. There is a trend towards restorative justice in schools that would call for something other than that type of response. Who can deny there is an issue in the US with race and education and punishment? There was literally a law created about it in IL. NO ONE condones fighting or video taping of fights by minors and I'm glad action is being taken to stop and prevent this going forward without "locking" up kids in need of guidance. Maybe the school should have acted earlier (I have no idea), but Dr. Cavallo's response regarding race in light of the comments is, again, appropriate.

Karen Margaret  

Posted: September 11th, 2019 7:04 AM

Mr.Cavallo, Why are you bringing race into this? This is not a race issue. You do know it was the "black" mother who posted the video right? These were children behaving badly! Any parent black or white would have reacted the same way. To bring race into this is not going to fix the problem. It was a classic case of bullying, I think that is what you need to address. You're comment that if it were white kids that parents would have reacted different is offending.

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