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Community Service Ordered for High School Food Fight Participants

Message sent home from West Springfield High School today.

More than 100 students who participated in a massive food fight at West Springfield High School last week will be doing community service Saturday, June 4, according to a message sent to parents.

Some students who participated in the food fight and complete community service may be eligible to attend senior activities, including prom, the senior picnic and other events that were put "on hold" pending school officials' investigation. Other students may still be banned from the events.

This is a message from West Springfield High School.

Update from last Thursday

We want to begin by thanking everyone who has been so supportive of us during the aftermath of our extremely disruptive and dangerous food fight in the cafeteria on Thursday, May 12, 2011.   We acknowledge and share your concerns and are extremely optimistic about our plan to move forward as a school and a community.

The following are just some of the facts of Thursday’s food fight:  
•    100+ active participants
•    800+ students in C lunch
•    It was “raining food” from one end of the cafeteria to the other
•    Food thrown included cafeteria lunches as well as items such as raw eggs brought from home
•    Partially filled water bottles were also thrown
•    Tables and chairs were flipped
•    600+ students were running in a mass exodus, many of them tripping, slipping, and falling
•    Special needs students sitting in the middle were traumatized
•    A fire alarm was pulled by a student in another part of the building which contributed to the chaos and anxiety
•    In the aftermath, students and custodians worked more than eight hours cleaning and sanitizing the cafeteria

Our decision to put all activities “on hold” for the seniors, was done for one and only one reason—safety and security.  Our highest obligation to each member of the West Springfield High School community is to provide a safe and secure environment for student learning to take place.  We must ensure that daily school activities as well as special events are conducted in an appropriate manner within that safe and secure environment.  

After gathering input from students, staff, security, and a representation from the community, we have decided to take the actions outlined below.   These actions, we believe, address the challenge at hand:   Assess an extremely negative incident, evaluate it fairly, respond in unity, and turn it into a positive learning experience for everyone.   

On Saturday, June 4th, we will hold a Community Service Day.  Students who participated in this food fight, students who knowingly stayed as willing witnesses, and students who left their classes to go the cafeteria for the food fight are all expected to attend this community service day at WSHS.  Those unable to participate on June 4th may complete their community service preparing food for the homeless at organizations such as ECHO or running in a charity race like Race for the Cure (that same morning).  Students are also expected to bring at least two of their favorite canned food items to be donated to ECHO’s food bank.  You may follow the following links:   http://echo-inc.org/Donate/Needs.htm   and  http://echo-inc.org/Donate/12MonthNeeds.htm.

Students from C Lunch who participate in both the food donation and the community service will once again be eligible for the senior picnic, trip, and prom end-of-year activities that were put on hold on Thursday.  That said, some individual students depending on their role, can and will be held out of some of these activities as a consequence.

Not only was this incident extremely wasteful of food, but the food fight and its aftermath cost custodians extra time and labor, blemished our image in the community, and disappointed many of us in each other.  We believe our Community Service Day and other community service actions, rather than being strictly or overly punitive, will instead allow students to put their collective efforts into beautification of our school and a much more positive and appropriate use of food.  Although we have designed these service opportunities specifically for C Lunch students who chose to engage in or stay around to witness the food fight, all students are welcome and encouraged to participate, again as a sign of our school responding in unity.   More details will be coming out from the school in the very near future.

The incident on Thursday is not representative of our school.   Friday night’s 2nd Annual Relay for Life was!  We had over 1000 walkers, including hundreds of students, here walking for 12 hours on behalf of the American Cancer Society.  This year’s Relay raised over $140,000, meaning that over the past two years we have raised over $300,000 as a school and community.  That type of activity is what makes WSHS a great school!  Moreover, we refuse to let the incident last Thursday define our school, this school year, or the Class of 2011.  We have much more to offer, and we believe that engaging in this type of school or community service will not only show the positive side of our school and students but will also help our school community heal.  We believe this will allow students to once again do their P.A.R.T. for WSHS!

John Farrell May 18, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Requiring community service relating to hunger is a good move as it matches an act of reconciliation to the nature of the transgression. However the rest of Wardinski's statement reeks of pretension. Does he really expect anyone to believe the suspension of the senior activities was not intended to coerce seniors into implicating each other? Was he truly afraid of a food fight at the prom or at senior night? "extremely negative incident" No hyperbole there. We all can think of other potential events that might be extremely negative. A food fight? Not so much. Are the "students who knowingly stayed as willing witnesses" counted among the 100 active participants? Watching others act like fools is a punishable offense in FCPS? Where is that in the SR&R? "blemished our image in the community," this appears to always be the first concern of FCPS personnel in every instance. When will that "image" obsession be replaced by genuine concern for the best interests of the students? While he makes clear a student pulled the fire alarm, Wardinski does not address whether he had advanced notice of the food fight nor does he apologize for not intervening, if he did. Half a loaf (for the hungry) is better than continued idiocy. Sigh
Kevin May 25, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Food fights are fun! However, you don't realize what a pain it is to clean it up until you get a little older and get out into the world :( Traumatized special needs students? ??

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