High school fight leads to suspensions in Eagle-Vail | VailDaily.com

High school fight leads to suspensions in Eagle-Vail

Dustin Racioppi
Eagle-Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” A scuffle between two students at Battle Mountain High School Tuesday in Eagle-Vail, Colorado that sparked a separate incident where another student may now face criminal charges and possible expulsion has led to suspensions and a police investigation, school officials said Thursday.

A shoving match between two students ” one white and one Hispanic ” broke out in the hallway but was immediately addressed by a nearby school official, said Eagle County Sheriff Spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly.

Because of their age, none of the students’ names could be released.

Cordingly did say there may have been racial slurs hurled during the fight, and Assistant Principal Philip Qualman addressed the entire school Wednesday morning about race, prejudice and tolerance of diversity. But Cordingly and the school district’s executive director of secondary education, Mike Gass, both said there’s no evidence of racial motives at this point, even though they said it has sparked race-related rumors around town.

“Sometimes I think the easy way out for people that don’t have all the information is that it has to do with skin color or race,” Gass said. “You’re allowed to disagree with a person. I think what we had was a misunderstanding between two kids and one happened to be Hispanic and one happened to be white.”

But the misunderstanding between the two students ” both of whom Gass said have been suspended ” carried over later in the day with a group of Hispanics and whites.

Cordingly said a Hispanic student punched who he thought was one of the people involved in the initial altercation. This was in plain view of a resource officer who was on patrol at the school.

“He thought it was a kid involved in the original incident and punched him in the face,” she said. “It was misinformation.”

The student who threw the punch now faces charges of assault, and if pursued, Cordingly said he could be expelled from school.

While police investigate the punching, the high school has already tried to prevent any further incidents or potential backlash.

The following day, extra teachers and administrators manned the hallways, there were classwide discussions in an attempt to bring the facts to light and squelch any rumors, and student leaders are now developing plans for small group activities involving white and Hispanic leaders.

“It certainly allows us to provide a learning experience. If you don’t do that, you missed an opportunity and it does become an issue,” Gass said.

And overall, Gass said the vibe around the school has been positive.

“The administrators and teachers have done a great job of making sure kids are feeling safe about things,” he said. “I think the kids realize this is not what the school is about.”

Gass said school officials will continue to investigate the two incidents, and the suspended students will return to school when administrators feel it’s appropriate.

He also said the district and school will assess Battle Mountain’s climate in another week or so, and decide if any further actions or discussions are needed.

“If people have gotten the message that that’s not what our school’s about, we’re not going to beat that drum,” he said. “We’ve got better things we could be doing.”

Dustin Racioppi can be reached at (970)748-2936 or dracioppi@vaildaily.com.

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