WEST JORDAN Two after-school fights involving middle-school students in recent weeks have kept West Jordan police busy.
Now, officers want to send a message to all school children that planned brawls will not be tolerated in any form, whether the juvenile is an active fighting participant or a spectator.
"We are absolutely sending a strong message to these kids," said West Jordan police detective Greg Butler. "Fights are not sporting events. There's a chance people will be hurt physically and emotionally. They take an emotional toll even on folks who witness them."
Earlier this month, two 14-year-old girls from West Jordan Middle School got into a fist fight after school in a field near a church. The fight was planned for about a week, according to investigators. The day of the fight, numerous students got onto a school bus they don't normally ride so they could go to the predetermined location for their confrontation.
Spectators circled the two girls and encouraged them to fight, Butler said. The ensuing brawl was captured on a student's cell phone video recorder.
This week, 24 students who witnessed the fight were charged and handed citations at school.
The charge is called a "conduct of another" violation, meaning police say the students were encouraging the girls to go through with the fight.
"It was the crowd that shouted out things and got the girls (fighting)," Butler said. "I'm fully convinced there wouldn't have been a fight if there wasn't a crowd."
A "conduct of another" charge mirrors whatever the person involved in the original crime is charged with, Butler said. In this case, all 24 students were charged with misdemeanors. The penalties, if convicted, could range from community service and fines to detention if any of the juveniles have prior records, Butler said.
Many parents of the students charged were upset with the decision, saying their sons and daughters did nothing wrong. They note that the bus driver who had all the students on his bus should have either not allowed the extra students on, or realized something was wrong when more than 20 students all got off at the same location.
Butler said detectives looked at the possibility of charging the driver, but decided to let the school district take the disciplinary actions it feels is appropriate.
As for the students, Butler said the charge was about more than just sitting and watching. Investigators believe the group was responsible for pushing the girls into fighting and the fisticuffs were to appease the spectators.
In an unrelated but similar incident Tuesday, three girls from Sunset Ridge Middle School, 6881 W. 8200 South, aged 13 through 15, met at a park for a pre-planned fight.
During the fight, a 15-year-old girl was stabbed in the stomach. Her injuries were not life threatening.
Wednesday, police announced they arrested a 14-year-old girl who they say stabbed the other girl, for investigation of assault. The two other girls, including the victim who was stabbed, were arrested for investigation of rioting.The victim in the stabbing was also an active participant in the fight, Butler said.