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East High School problem escalates in part due to social media

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Wausau East high school sports
Wausau East high school sports

WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -  What started as a problem between two Wausau East students a couple of weeks ago escalated into a problem involving a handful of students, some fighting, and several racially-charged comments around the school and on social media.

Wausau East High School Principal Bradley J. Peck says racially-charged language and violence won't be tolerated. “What I want people to know is, first of all, language that is racially charged or people that are demonstrating intolerance towards other groups, ethnic groups, is not going to be tolerated here.”

Peck says the problems escalated when the students discussed the incident on Facebook and other social media, saying several hurtful and inaccurate things were posted online. As these untrue statements circulated, it increased the tension between some of those involved and their friends. That’s when a fight broke out. There are two teenaged males that were arrested at school Friday.

Peck says bad behavior will not be tolerated. “Those involved in this incident have been dealt with swiftly, and they’re facing not only district discipline but municipal charges too, because we aren’t going to tolerate it. We’re going to do everything we can to preserve a very safe learning environment up here for all students, and we want to resolve everything we can peacefully, however, students are still going to be held accountable for their actions.”

There have been no injuries from the incidents, including the teen boy who was punched Friday. Peck says the repeating of incorrect information and adding details that are not true just made it worse. For example, Peck says someone posted on Facebook that a student was tasered by police when that never happened.

Principal Peck sent a letter to East High parents over the weekend, and he says that has been very well received. He says several students have also stepped up asking what they can do to help restore respect and make the school safer.

School officials have been busy working with students and parents to prevent the problems from escalating again. “First of all, maintaining a safe environment, and that means teachers being available out and about watching what’s going on. talking to the students involved, like on the fringe, especially those that are fanning this with Facebook, making sure that students know the facts of the incident, what’s taken place, also holding people responsible for actions and their words.”

The two teens arrested Friday are being charged, but their names cannot be released since they are juveniles. They are not back in school at this time.

COPY OF THE LETTER TO PARENTS:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

This week has been an extremely unsettling time for the entire Wausau East High School community. Two student altercations occurred in our cafeteria that necessitated the involvement of the Wausau Police Department. The purpose of this communication is to quell rumors surrounding these incidents.

I want you to know these incidents involved a very small number of students. Unfortunately, the information surrounding these incidents - and the number of students involved - have been distorted by students through Facebook and other social media.

These incidents were dealt with immediately. The students involved are facing strict school and District discipline, as well as municipal consequences up to and including disorderly conduct citations and arrests. The use of racially-charged language and fighting will not be ignored or tolerated at our school.

Respect for each other is a core value of Wausau East High School. “We believe everyone at our school possesses qualities and traits worthy of admiration, so we respect the dignity of each person.” Our staff and administration are committed to addressing incidents of intolerance and to ensuring that Wausau East High School continues to be a safe and secure place for students to learn.

Sincerely,

Bradley J. Peck, Ph.D.Principal

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