Duval County high schools recorded 510 fights last school year

The News4JAX I-TEAM is digging into the frequency of fights in Duval County public high schools in light of an altercation among teens in Las Vegas earlier this month that left one of them beaten to death.

Jonathan Lewis Jr. was 17-years-old. Police in Las Vegas said he was assaulted by 10 classmates, whose ages ranged from 13 to 17, in a pre-arranged fight in an alleyway near their high school. According to investigators, the fight was over a pair of headphones and a vape pen.

According to Duval County Public Schools data, 510 fights were recorded last year at Duval County high schools or on buses for those schools. When the I-TEAM compared data from the first 60 days of this school year to the same timeframe last school year, it appears the district is on track to see roughly the same number of fights by the end of the year.

In Duval County Schools, a fight among multiple people that causes disruption of campus activities is classified as a “major altercation.” The district recorded 58 such fights last school year at 14 schools.

Westside High School had the most with 12 major altercations, and in just the first 60 days of this school year, Westside had already seen six major altercations.

Terry Parker High had the second highest number of major altercations last year with nine, but it had the highest number of smaller fights, at 59. The district defines a fighting incident as when two or more people get in a fight that requires physical intervention or results in someone getting hurt.

Baldwin Middle-High School had the second highest number of these fights last school year with 48.

Overall, Duval County Schools recorded 432 such fighting incidents last school year. (See below for data for all high schools for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years.)

James Brown, who retired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office after spending decades in law enforcement, said, “One of the best tools is to have their resource officers, school police, establish rapport with a lot of these kids…you would encourage students to come forth with information about potential fights or who they’re having arguments with.”

Brown said the deadly teen altercation in Las Vegas may be a wakeup call for more intervention.

In a statement to the I-TEAM, a spokesperson for DCPS said:

“Fighting is absolutely unacceptable on our campuses, and we have increasingly strengthened our Code of Student Conduct over the last few years to reflect tougher student penalties for engaging in fighting and violent behavior.

Additionally, through our recent “Stop the Violence” grant initiative, we have begun providing comprehensive professional development opportunities to educators across the district. This training includes both violence prevention and intervention strategies.

Through our long-running Student Option for Success program, we work together with families and students – who have been involved in fighting – to learn impulse-control, self-regulation measures, and alternatives to fighting. This approach, along with our continued expansion of mental health services through our Hazel Health Partnership, helps us get to the root of bad choices that lead to fighting.

Our goal is to continue to cultivate a culture of safety in all our schools so that students can learn and achieve academically to their fullest potential.”

Laureen Ricks, DCPS Strategic Communications Director

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