RALEIGH (WTVD) --The videos are short but hard to watch; one shows two boys throwing punches at each other, crashing into tables and chairs, then onto the floor; in another, one girl punches another in the face as they shove each other into lockers. Still more videos show students pulling each other's hair, tearing at clothes, all while a crowd of classmates gather and record video of the violence on their cell phones.
A parent of a Leesville Road High School student in Raleigh shared the videos with ABC11, saying fights like these happen frequently.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, Leesville Road High School Principal Dr. Anthony J. Mutillo addressed an uptick in violence since the start of the school year:
"Fighting is never acceptable on any Wake County school campus. We encourage students who become upset or angry to resolve conflicts peacefully. While Leesville Road High School provides a safe environment where the vast majority of students follow school rules, we have seen an increase in the number of student altercations on campus during the current school year. The school administration is working on strategies to ensure a safer environment and will communicate that to parents through regular principal updates."
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Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he knows fighting happens in schools across the county all the time.
"That's ridiculous," he said while watching one of the brawls caught on camera.
In the video, a school resource officer, a member of the Raleigh police department, can be seen running in to try to break up the fighting.
"You see that officer?" Said Harrison, watching the screen. "You see what happens - everybody's surrounding that officer. That officer has no idea who's behind him. He's putting his life in jeopardy right there."
Harrison has 23 of his deputies serving as SROs in 22 Wake County schools, mostly middle schools. While he says it's necessary to have a law enforcement presence on school campuses these days, he'd rather have his deputies serving elsewhere.
"I don't like the idea of having my people in schools because of the difference in everybody's opinion- what we should do and what we shouldn't do," said Harrison. "I'm going to abide by the law."
The videos of fighting at this Raleigh high school are surfacing amidst an investigation into a Rolesville police officer's conduct at Rolesville High School this week.
Video of the incident has been seen across the country, showing Officer Ruben De Los Santos lifting Jasmine Darwin, 15, into the air and slamming her onto the ground. The girl's mother tells Eyewitness News her daughter was trying to break up a fight between her big sister and another girl when De Los Santos stepped in, leaving her daughter with a concussion.
"We're law enforcement officers," said Harrison. "Whether it's a fight in a school, or in a bar, or on the street, we have to handle it the same. We have to minimize the threat, we have to make sure we take control of the scene. Do we make mistakes sometimes? Absolutely."
Harrison said he's waiting, like everyone else, to see the results of an SBI investigation into the incident at Rolesville High School. Right now, De Los Santos is on paid administrative leave.
Meantime, the incident has prompted the Wake County Public School System to review its agreement with its partner law enforcement agencies which provide SROs.
That agreement, while prohibiting SROs' use of excessive force, defers to individual agencies on rules of conduct for their officers.
"Each one has their own policy and procedure," said Harrison. "Most of us are similar, but to me, as I've said this before, the Wake County school system needs their own police department. That way, they go right down the line. They have their own policy and procedure just like we do."
Harrison said he'll continue to make that suggestion to WCPSS as it reviews its agreement.
As for responding to fights that happen in schools, Harrison said it will remain his policy for SROs to intervene. However, he would rather them not have to stop students from hitting each other in the first place.
"It starts at home - the problem starts at home," he said. "Parents just have to take more responsibility."
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