NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When the fight started at his Middle Tennessee high school, one student could only think to protect himself from the fists coming at him.
Within minutes, teachers were pulling at least two other students off of him. The high schooler was bloody and dazed. News 2 is referring to him as Barry to protect his privacy and for his safety.
“Some rumors were told, and that is how the altercation happened,” Barry told News 2. “All rumors end up going bad.”
The fight wasn’t just watched by students. Some pulled out mobile phones and recorded it, sharing the video among themselves and posting it to social media.
The video went viral, and before Barry knew it, images of the fight were on local news stations.
“Your pride is hurt and you feel less of a person,” he said. “Then it being televised and recorded makes it even worse.”
He continued, “You watch it over and over again. Then you know just about everyone in Nashville saw it.”
Barry is one of the estimated 3,600 students assaulted in Tennessee schools last year, according to the Tennessee Department of Education. That is a 15 percent increase over the previous school year.
In fact, a 2015 Tennessee School Climate High School Student Survey found that 29.5 percent of students said students in their school belonged to gangs.
In the same survey, 41 percent said students threatened to hurt others and 39.7 percent said students fight a lot in their school.
Many of those fights are recorded and posted to the internet via social media.
Barry said teens do it to feel good about themselves.
“It is to get a little fan club or clout to make themselves look better because they have the video,” he said. “They were obviously not worried about anything but getting a couple of likes or something. They had no remorse for anything that was happening.”
News 2 spoke with Brittany Meadows, the Director of Corporate Communications for Addiction Campuses who specializes in digital content.
“Social media has sort of blurred the line between school/home and personal life/school life,” she said. “It has kind of opened up all these doors for us to explore.”
Meadows said social media has allowed people to know things about and keep track of each other–and be able to do it all without other people knowing.
“It creates a very open platform for your life,” she told News 2.
But the use of social media can have a long-lasting negative effect on teens, and not just the ones in the video.
“When you have these children on social media platforms, it’s sometimes difficult for younger minds to grasp that this is something that stays with them for the rest of their life,” Meadows said. All it takes is one screenshot, one share or one post to affect the rest of their life.”
Kaplan Test Prep found in a survey of 365 college admission counselors that 35 percent checked out the social media accounts of applicants.
Of those counselors, 42 percent said what they found negatively impacted the applicant’s chances at admission.
“Once the parents are aware, they need to talk to their kids about this,” Meadows said. “It is really difficult to keep up with all the social platforms and ways to chat or share video because it’s always changing.”
In addition to the social media footprint, there is the damage done to the person caught on video. Barry changed schools and still hears about the video almost daily.
“It is hard because I still see people today that say, ‘Hey, you were that guy on TV. What happened?’” he said. “Everybody still brings it up.”
According to the Metro Nashville Public School handbook for students, a high school student “may possess a cellular telephone or other personal technology on school property and may use such technology during lunch and transition times. Use of personal technology during instructional periods is generally prohibited.”
For elementary and middle schoolers, the handbook states, “A student may possess a cellular phone or other personal technology on school property. Use of such technology will be at the discretion of the building administrator. If the building administrator elects to allow modified use of personal technology, plans must be submitted to the appropriated tier-level associate superintendent or executive.”