But the return to in-person learning also meant a return to some of the more interpersonal problems teenagers can have with each other -- like fights broadcast on Instagram; and the consequences it all can bring.
The Instagram page NGMS Tea or North Garner Middle School Tea shows fight videos that appear to be recorded on campus.
It shows young teens, boys and girls in fist fights in the bathroom, outside the school and in the cafeteria.
Taka James' 13-year-old daughter, Tytianna, was suspended from North Garner Middle last week after a cafeteria brawl with at least two other girls. A portion of the fight was posted on the Instagram page.
"She called me and saying 'Mommy, help me, help me, help me. So I had to leave work,'" James said.
James says her daughter has been bullied for weeks by the girls at school. She says days before the fight, she went to school administrators asking them to intervene.
"If parents are hearing stuff and reporting stuff to you -- you should take what we're saying into consideration," James said. "You're not even listening to us. It's like you're brushing it off. And then when it gets down to the nitty gritty and these kids are getting in fights in school -- you're suspending them."
Fight videos from North Garner Middle School lead to suspensions and fears of a school-to-prison pipeline from parents who tried to sound the alarm— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) September 14, 2021
“If parents are hearing stuff and reporting it to you, you should take what we’re saying into consideration.” #abc11 pic.twitter.com/6ZDL0WwLFj
Parent advocate Diana Powell called the fight videos unacceptable. She says she's even more concerned with the school system's treatment of Tytianna. She believes the teen is being quickly funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline -- unfairly pushed out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system.
'Society sees Black kids as more aggressive': School to prison pipeline prominent in some NC schools
"If we can stop (the fighting) before it begins, I believe it will make a difference," Powell said. "When a concerned parent makes a complaint that there is some bullying going on with their child and they're aware of it and then the incident occurs and then the child gets suspended and recommended to go to alternative school -- that's the school to prison pipeline."
"The school has an obligation to make decisions based on all the information available. There is additional video footage of directly before and after this fight that provided additional context for the school administration," a WCPSS spokesperson told ABC11.
James says the school has not disclosed any additional video/context to her.
"It has not been told to me," she said.
"With COVID-19, a lot is going on: a shortage of teachers, shortage of administrators. We get all of that," Powell said. "So my thing is, (the school district) should reach back into the community and find out where we can help."
When ABC11 asked the district if WCPSS was aware the fight videos were being posted on Instagram, a district spokesperson said they could not comment, citing student privacy laws.
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