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Filmed brawl at Charlottesville High prompts calls for action

After a brawl at Charlottesville High School involving dozens of students on Thursday, the school’s principal has appealed to parents for help, a video of the fight circulating is prompting calls for action and a candidate for the General Assembly has even referenced the melee in his campaign announcement.

The video that began circulating online Thursday shows chaos breaking out among a crowd of students in what appears to be the school’s main lobby. Students can be seen grabbing at each other, throwing punches and climbing on top of a desk before adults arrive and attempt to quell the violence.

The school division would not comment on the incident on Sunday.

“This is not breaking news,” Beth Cheuk told The Daily Progress.

“Something that happened on a Thursday (especially a fight, which happens in schools across the country fairly regularly) is definitely not a matter of urgency on a Sunday,” Cheuk said in a follow-up email.

It was, however, urgent enough for the school’s principal to address the matter in an email to parents on the day it occurred.

“We had students behave in a manner that is not reflective of our values or expectations,” Principal Rashaad Pitt, who assumed the post last year, said in the Thursday email obtained by The Daily Progress. “I am appealing to you to have conversations with your student and other students within the community.”

The matter was also significant enough for Bellamy Brown, a former member of the Police Civilian Oversight Board running for the House of Delegates’ 54th District seat, to reference the fight and quote directly from Pitt’s email in his campaign announcement on Saturday.

“We all need to work together with law enforcement, with principals and teachers and other community leaders to really solve these challenges,” Brown, a Democrat, said at his campaign launch in Charlottesville on Saturday. “My priority … is the safety of our students and teachers and supporting and strengthening our public schools.”

Brown echoed concerns in Pitt’s email and remarks made by Cheuk that the violence on Thursday was not simply an isolated incident.

“If I am being honest, today was not the first day we have seen fighting,” Pitt said in his email.

Pitt said that over the course of the school year, the school has implemented various “supports” for students.

“For some,” he said, “these interventions have been effective, but for others, even out-of-school consequences have not been a deterrent.”

An uptick in violent behavior has also been reported at other schools in the area.

Albemarle County Public Schools is considering reinstating school resource officers after parents reported myriad incidents of physical fights, vaping in bathrooms and even sexual assault at public schools there.

There have been at least two reports of sexual assaults at Albemarle High School in the past four months, parents have told The Daily Progress, one involving the school’s junior varsity football team in October.

The Albemarle County Police Department has told The Daily Progress that multiple minors were charged with crimes in connection to the incident in October but declined to say how many received charges or what the charges were. The minors were referred to juvenile intake and the case was closed in November, authorities said.

The county school division has said an “incident” did occur in October, but it has not identified the incident as sexual assault specifically.

Pitt said that “unsafe behaviors” will not be tolerated at Charlottesville High and that students who engage in physical violence will face long-term suspension and expulsion.

He also said he appreciates “the vast majority of our students who are behaving well, building relationships, and contributing to learn.”


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