A series of disturbing videos posted on YouTube show Merrillville High School students fighting in the cafeteria, before classes start at breakfast and boxing in the bathroom.
Merrillville schools interim Superintendent Mike Berta said Wednesday morning the videos are authentic and students have been suspended and expelled for fighting, and charges may be pursued in some cases.
Merrillville Police Chief Joe Petruch said the school resource officer advised him this morning that a student posted video of the school fights. School officials said they believe they know the identity of that student.
"These fights didn't happen yesterday but over the course of the year," Petruch said. "The school has already dealt with the students in each of these cases. There may be charges pursued. We are still investigating. These students are juveniles. They are now trying to determine who posted it to YouTube. The school has taken the appropriate action."
Berta emphasized the fights occurred over the course of the year beginning when school started in August. He said school officials received the videos Wednesday morning.
"As each of these incidents occurred, the school personnel dealt with each one. We have rules and we expect our students to follow those rules. When they don't, we take the appropriate action with them. Some of the students were expelled and some were referred to police based on the severity of the incident," Berta said.
"What you see in those videos is the reality of what educators have to deal with from time to time. We expect kids to come to school to learn. We focus on academics and how to treat one another. Unfortunately, what you see in these videos is students who have not learned that lesson. They are old enough to make the right decision but have not done so."
Berta said he would ask parents to have discussions with their sons and daughters before they leave for school in the morning about how they should behave.
The superintendent said some of the videos appeared to be staged. "Maybe someone feels like they can seize the moment," he said.
Berta said they have a suspicion of who posted the videos to YouTube, and that student was at the school for a period of time but recently was placed in the alternative school.
Berta said the district focuses on behavior from the time students enroll in the Merrillville Community School Corp., and he said there are lessons on civility and expectations of how to behave in school.
"We talk to students regularly about how to deal with one another when you don't agree. There are a lot of proactive lessons built into the curriculum starting at kindergarten," Berta said.
"This is not acceptable," he said. "Sometimes it's about stupid, silly stuff that escalates into a serious reaction and the kids start hitting one another. Sometimes, it's horse play that evolves into something more serious. We reiterate our request that parents talk to students about how they should behave at school."