Examining the combative culture at South Gwinnett

Why are we fighting?


Ms. Ebony Stuart

PTSO president, Mr. DA Williams, and PTSO parent engage with a Comet as he enjoys his lunch.

Kamilah Osman and Delina Gebreyohannes

It starts with someone throwing the first punch. Immediately, students race to the scene as they hold up their cell phones and begin to record the fight. As school staff try to regain control, an alarm is hit and a soft lockdown is put in place. Students scatter to get to safety and phone loved ones. On September 8th, during advisement, a number of fights broke-out in the halls and on the courtyard. Additionally, on the 19th, at least eight fights occurred during the lunch block resulting in 5th lunch being cut short, a soft lock lockdown, and a staggered dismissal. Fighting is becoming a recurring thing in high schools, the question is why?

Speculations as to why the fights occurred include getting out of class, personal conflict, and internet notoriety. Ms. Lou Johnson, a 10th grade World Literature teacher at South offered her perspective, “Students may come from homes that aren’t as expressive, which may cause them to retaliate at school.” It’s been well documented that parent emphasis on education is crucial to a student’s success in school (Muller, Kerbow, 2018). Epstein and Hollifield state in their article, “Many studies suggest that parent assistance at home… has important consequences for students’ achievements, attendance, school adaptability, and classroom behavior.” Direct parent involvement in school leads to a more positive outcome (Epstein and Hollifield, 2009).

Some may believe South Gwinnett has a lack of parent involvement at the school level. According to Principal Jarrett, parent night held on August 30th had only 60 families attend between both the in person and virtual attendees combined. Despite this alarming low turnout, South’s Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) is a way South is closing that gap. On September 9th, a group of dedicated parents showed their support of our students by monitoring lunch in the Commons and making meaningful connections with our Comets. The PTSO president, Mr. DA Williams says, “The purpose [of the PTSO] is to come out and encourage our community. We all have a part to play in this. When we work together, we win together.” The PTSO is a way to give back and show students that there is a community who stands behind them. When students see parental involvement in their school, they react in a more positive way.

When we work together, we win together. That’s what our students need to know. Everyone at South Gwinnett has an important part to play.

— Mr. DA Williams

Dr. Amy Edwards, South’s discipline assistant principal, says “students should not fight…period. If students are experiencing conflict with their peers, please seek mediation with the counselors and/or any adult in the building. Fighting makes SGHS look bad.” In response to the fights in our building, South has taken measures to minimize the combative behavior, promising to ensure a safe campus for Comets. Along with parent involvement on campus, suspension, limited transitions in the halls, in-class lunch, and staggered dismissal are a handful of the precautions that were taken in response to fighting. In the interest of safety, many diligent students are enduring the consequences of those that are breaking the rules, even as far as missing the Homecoming pep rally. Claudia Cambron, a senior at South, says, “I don’t really like conflict and drama because it is just not for me. I like to be in my own space and if someone tries to start a conflict with me, I ignore them, let my teacher or someone else know about what is happening.” Many students like Claudia are hoping that now that our school has returned to a normal school environment, students will use similar conflict resolution strategies to ensure that we can continue to enjoy our high school experience.