ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – A vicious high school fight sent a school worker flying into a glass trophy case. For some people in one New Mexico school district, that fight highlights a lack of security on campus.
City officials in Española said they don’t expect to stop all school fights, but there are concerns that a shift in staffing is making the problem worse. Classmates captured cell-phone video of two teen girls fighting at Española Valley High last week. The video shows a school worker trying to break it up, as she gets thrown into a glass case near the main lobby. The girls keep fighting until someone eventually steps in.
“I was taken aback by it, the level of violence,” said Peggy Sue Martinez, Española City Councilor, representing District 2.
Martinez said parents and teachers tell her fights like that in schools are happening more and more.
“I have heard that there is less presence of the police officer on campus,” Martinez told News 13.
Martinez said the School Board just recently gave the school resource officer contract to a Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputy. In the past several years, that job belonged to a female Española Police officer.
“The fact that there’s a new school resource officer there tells me that, quite possibly, there could not be that trust,” Martinez explained. She said the Española officer had built a close relationship with students, and that her presence would help prevent violence.
It’s unclear exactly why the decision was made to take the Española police officer out of the schools. The Sheriff’s Office has been criticized for its response time to school calls. A Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s spokesperson told News 13, the deputy it provides can’t be at all schools at all time, but that he was selected because he’s “highly motivated and a good fit for this assignment.”
“We never intended to have an officer on site at every school at all times when the schools are open,” said Captain Quintin McShan, of the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office, in an emailed statement. “We do intend to be the primary investigative agency for crime and major events at the schools. We do coordinate with the Superintendent’s office on the SRO schedule. We do intend to expend some overtime in the school in the coming weeks,” McShan added. He also stated there is security staff at schools as well.
News 13 spotted a deputy responding to another school fight Wednesday afternoon.
In this case, Martinez hopes someone can help students before things rise to this level again.
“We cannot allow this to be happening in our schools,” Martinez said. “We all need to work together.”
According to the deputy’s report, the 14 and 15-year-old girls in the fight captured on video were charged with battery and restitution, and were suspended from school. Deputies said the teens were fighting over a male classmate.
The worker thrown into the glass had minor injuries, and was treated by a school nurse. The Superintendent for Española Public Schools did not return calls from News 13 Wednesday for comment.