Tuesday, August 01, 2006

CONT’D: Messaging fuels combatants

Teen fight clubs have staged bouts on school campuses and in backyards, city streets, public parks, parking lots and gas stations.
Mac Bernd, superintendent of the Arlington Independent School District, says ringleaders have orchestrated fights the same way they do parties: through word-of-mouth, phone calls and text messages.
Text-messaging enables instigators to inflame a minor dispute between teens at breakfast into a full-scale brawl by lunch. "You have an electronic rumor mill that moves at the speed of light," he says. That's why Bernd, despite the objection of some parents, is outlawing all telecommunications devices for the 2006-07 school year — including cellphones, pagers, beepers, PDAs, digital and video cameras, MP3 and CD players and video games. The ban covers 74 schools with 63,000 students, including a half-dozen high schools with 20,000 students.
"We've concluded schools are for teaching and learning," he says.
Race does not appear to play much of a factor in teen fight clubs' bouts. Rita Sibert, president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, says the clubs include "a mix of all children, all races."
Most of those in the Agg Townz video are African-American. However, just a week after Jackson's arrest, Arlington police booked a group of 11 white teens and one Hispanic youth for fighting in public, Hawthorne says. A fight video made in nearby Grand Prairie shows mostly white teens, city police Detective John Brimmer says.

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