Reports of fistfighting and group fighting have increased among teens in Monterey County. Law enforcement says calls to schools remain low, but street violence among young people has increased. “People are getting hurt with these fights,” says Seaside Police Chief Nick Borges.
In Greenfield, police report a similar trend. In December, three 14-year-olds were arrested for attacking a 13-year-old and leaving him unconscious after attempting to rob him. From Jan. 1 through Feb. 20, Greenfield police made 29 arrests of people under age 18, in a variety of cases.
In Salinas, police arrested four teenagers ages 15 to 17 on Feb. 1 in connection with the murder of Andrew Parker, 19, and the attempted of murder a second victim, an underage teen, in November.
School administrators say incidents like these don’t necessarily spill over into schools. Superintendents PK Diffenbaugh at Monterey Peninsula Unified and Dan Burns at Salinas Union High say reports of violence remain similar to previous years.
Instead, they describe an increase in behavioral misconduct among students, which they attribute at least partly to the pandemic and lack of social interaction among students during that time. Burns says students’ behavior was somewhat different when they returned to the classrooms: “They didn’t have the same type of structure at home as they did in schools.”
Diffenbaugh says they’ve seen more young kids running out of the classroom, throwing things or biting other students. Burns describes defiance among middle and high school students.
School officials remain vigilant when it comes to weapons and threats on school campuses. A student stabbed another student, resulting in minor injuries, at Community Day Middle School in Seaside on Jan. 6. At North Monterey County High School, a 15-year-old student was arrested on Jan. 25 for bringing a rifle scope and 9mm ammunition round to school. A week later, on Feb. 1, San Carlos School, a Catholic school in Monterey, received a gun threat, triggering a search and a lockdown among nearby MPUSD and Pacific Grove Unified School District campuses. In that case, police never located either a suspect or a weapon.
In 2021, in the course of three weeks, SUHSD had two incidents of students bringing loaded guns on campus, prompting a community conversation about installing metal detectors at school. District leadership ultimately opted not to, but did start using metal detector screening at football and basketball games.
Instead, school administrators say the bigger challenge and the place where intervention is needed is in addressing behavioral issues among students, especially given pandemic pressures and isolation.
In Seaside, Borges says his department is working with MPUSD, local organizations and community groups to tackle this issue of teen violence with a mentorship program. “There has to be a form of consequence that does not involve going to jail,” he says.
Getting stabbed by another student at school isn't called a minor incident. That stabbed student will be scarred for life both emotionally and physically.
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