Brawl at El Capitan High School in Merced, Calif. Leads to investigation


Update: At least three students have been arrested in connection with this incident. Read the latest developments here.

Original story below:

The Merced Union High School District is investigating after a brawl broke out over lunch Tuesday afternoon at El Capitan High School.

Videos of the incident have been posted on social media, showing staff members using force to separate students involved in the altercation. Photos and videos of the fight drew hundreds of comments, with people weighing in on both sides over whether staff went too far in physically immobilizing the students.

What exactly triggered the violence is still unclear on Thursday. However, school officials said it took longer for staff to bring the incident under control as some students did not cooperate with authorities.

“Unfortunately, in this situation, the students were much more aggressive when staff, administrators and other support staff stepped in,” said Ralph Calderon, MUHSD deputy superintendent.

Calderon said separate incidents were occurring simultaneously during the altercation between the students.

A statement sent by the school to parents of El Capitan students on Tuesday said students involved in the incident had been suspended and the ongoing investigation would lead to expulsion if appropriate.

“We appreciate your help in explaining to your student the need to heed the directions to disperse from incidents such as running into battle, surrounding the area and refusing to disperse only makes the situation worse,” the statement said.

Merced police did not immediately comment on the incident on Thursday.

Scenes from the altercation captured on video show several young people, visibly in distress, fighting each other and several adults attempting to quell the melee. Screams are heard through what appears to be multiple simultaneous fights.

The scenes depicted on social media shocked several parents who wondered if the school staff had gone too far in trying to bring the situation under control.

“It was a tough situation,” Calderon said. “Our # 1 goal is definitely to keep children safe.

“We have protocols to separate the students,” Calderon added. “The incident is being reviewed to ensure these protocols have been followed.”

Calderon said the altercation caused no injuries. Calderon did not want to say if any arrests had been made.

“It’s hard to look at a still photo and understand the context of the situation,” he said. “We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the entire school community.

Relative Amanda Candelaria said her son, a junior at El Capitan High School, received a five-day suspension following the incident.

Candelaria told the Sun-Star that her son got involved after seeing a student pinned to the ground, appearing to have a knee on her neck that made it difficult for him to breathe. He and another student pushed the kneeling adult out of the girl, according to Candelaria.

She said the school told her her son was suspended because he ignored the school principal’s instructions to stay out of the altercation.

“My son, he’s not going to let a girl get mugged like that,” Candelaria said. “I think the whole fight was wrong, but I think my son was right. He was just trying to protect this girl.

Candelaria said she was disappointed with the school’s handling of the incident and wanted staff to be better trained to deal with such incidents. “It’s abuse. They say it’s discipline. If we disciplined our children in this way, child protection services would be involved, ”she said.

Candelaria said she plans to call on the school board for more appropriate training of staff to deal with incidents like this in a way that maintains safety and respect for students.

Candelaria said the district’s statement to parents on Tuesday is the only message parents have received regarding the altercation. Although the students got out of hand, Candelaria said there was nothing to justify the way the students were being treated. “I don’t feel that (the school) has taken responsibility for their actions.”

This story was originally published September 30, 2021 12:43 pm.

Sports writer Shawn Jansen has been covering sports in the Merced area for 20 years. He came to Merced from Suisun City and graduated from San Diego State University. Prior to The Sun-Star, Shawn worked at the Daily Republic in Fairfield.


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