by Dylan Carlson Sirvent and Sophie Yang, ‘19
Police are investigating an incident between several Upper Arlington High School students that took place on Friday, Nov. 30 around 7 p.m. at Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School. A video, under 2 minutes long, shows two students fighting with other students standing around. The video was shared among the UAHS student body over the weekend through group chats.
The video begins with a student—Student A—being tackled to the ground by two others. Student A is punched repeatedly by another student on top of him—Student B—who at one point says “Who the (expletive) do you think I am?” Student B is handed an empty glass bottle and attempts to hit Student A with it, but the bottle is eventually removed by other students around him. The video ends with Student B spitting on Student A and stepping on his face. Another student says to Student A, who does not fight back, “You want more, I know you do.” Students can be heard saying the N-word near the end of the video.
The UAPD is considering the fight a mutual combatant incident in which all parties enter willingly into it. ABC6 ran a segment early Friday evening, a week after the fight, and said parents were worried it was a hate crime since Student A was of Asian descent. Bryan McKean, a UAPD officer of the Community Relations and Training unit, said the police are not treating it as such and that the evidence available suggests there was no racial intent behind the incident.
The conflict between the students had begun the week before after Student A lent Student B a brand-name jacket. Student B allegedly found and stole an amount of money in the jacket pocket, according to students familiar with the incident. The two students had a confrontation during 5th period lunch, and Student A allegedly hit Student B with a glass bottle. The UAPD confirmed there was an incident between the pair on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
According to McKean, police were called around 10:30 p.m. after the incident at Wickliffe by the mother of Student A. The responding patrol officer conducted a preliminary investigation and spoke with all parties involved for statements. Since the parties involved in the fight were all minors, police do not have jurisdiction to arrest, only to apprehend. In this incident, no students were apprehended or held in a detention center.
Police responded to a second, separate incident involving Student B fighting another student around 1 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1. McKean said the two incidents were unrelated.
Several days after the incident, after the video had been shared among students, it was posted to Facebook and has been a subject of controversy on the Facebook Upper Arlington Ohio Discussion Forum. Rumors spread that Student A was admitted to an intensive care unit at a hospital. Police confirmed this was not the case. Although both parties sustained minor injuries, neither went to the hospital. Student A later posted a written apology on his Snapchat story regarding the incident.
Due to federal privacy laws that protect students, the UAHS administration could not say when they had been notified of the incident or the specific disciplinary action undertaken. Principal Andrew Theado said the administration meets every Monday with the UAPD to review police reports involving UAHS students from the past week.
Theado released a statement to students on Schoology at 2:43 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 regarding the incident. Parents were emailed the same statement.
“We promptly investigated this situation and are following the disciplinary procedures outlined in our student code of conduct. We are also cooperating with the Upper Arlington Division of Police as officers conduct their own investigation,” Theado said in the statement. The City of Upper Arlington also published a news release on the incident Dec. 7.
Theado told Arlingtonian the administration is taking the incident seriously and encourages any students upset by the incident to talk with him. Jon Rice, Upper Arlington High School’s student resource officer, was not available for comment at the time that Arlingtonian reached out to his office.
McKean said there is no date set for the end of the investigation and it may take anywhere from days to weeks, depending on how much evidence the Detective Bureau must review. As of Dec. 7, there are no charges against any parties involved. The police will not bring up formal charges until the end of the investigation.
Arlingtonian has a copy of the video of the Nov. 30 incident but has chosen not to publish the footage as it involves minors and reveals students’ faces and other identifying markers. The students involved in the incident are not identified in this story for the same reason.
Background: Sophie and I gathered all of our information and wrote the whole article in one day. This was my first real exposure to a beat news story, one that needs to get out sooner than later, competing with other outlets to try to see who can break the story first and more accurately. In one day we talked to the police, students related to the incident, and the administration. Moreover, it also taught me the value hidden in rumors. Though many of them were false, they provided Sophie and I hints on what actually happened. We then took those hints and fact-checked them, either with the police or students related to the incident, and kept going from there. As bothersome as rumors are, often they provide the structure upon which the full story, and the true one, can be built upon.