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."