YouTube gives Beaufort High skirmish wide exposure

A fight at Beaufort High School this week that might only have captured the attention of school administrators and bystanders was available for the world to see on YouTube.

Viewed by thousands in the past 48 hours and shot by two different bystanders, grainy footage of Tuesday's scuffle in the gymnasium was posted on the video-sharing Web site.

Beaufort High principal Dan Durbin isn't pleased to see his school getting such attention, but he also doesn't believe the video will lead to more fights. It could even act as a deterrent, he said.

"This should remind our students that they're not going to get away with anything," Durbin said. "If you try something like this, you're going to be seen on a security camera or on someone's cell phone."

Though no criminal charges have been filed in connection with the fight, Durbin said footage of the skirmish is being used to investigate the involvement of six or seven students. Any of the students found to have been involved in fights before will be expelled, Durbin said.

Durbin said the YouTube videos of the fight make it easier for school administrators to see who was involved and in what capacity.

"The evidence of this makes our jobs easier because I don't have to go get it from a student," he said. "Sometimes things happen that we don't know about until well after the fact."

Beaufort County school board member Jim Bequette, who represents Lady's Island, said a commission is needed, consisting of parents, legislators, law enforcement officers and school administrators, to address the root cause of violence in county schools.

"Parents always want to defend their kids, but we need to study the laws and hold parents responsible for the actions of their children," he said. "This issue is larger than just one fight at a school. We can't allow all of the excitement at our schools to center around these little riots. It is taking students away from their studies."

From a law enforcement perspective, Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said video of a fight or any other crime posted for the world to see makes the job of investigators easier when identifying possible suspects.

"It's a great tool for us," he said. "You've got it on video, and you can identify the person and see what they're doing."

Clancy said he doesn't believe the fight footage posted Tuesday on the Internet glorifies violence or will encourage more fights at the school.

"There's lots of video of amateur fights and street fights on YouTube. But will seeing that encourage someone to be violent any more than a television show or a movie? I don't know," he said.

Tuesday's fight appears to have been shot on a cell phone camera or a digital camera. Beaufort High forbids students to use any personal electronics -- including cell phones, MP3 players and digital cameras -- in school.

Durbin said he thinks the school may have to revisit that policy.

"We may need to embrace this technology in some capacity," he said. "Our students aren't going to keep their cell phones hidden away at all time. So I've asked our staff to think about what is the appropriate time to be using some of this technology. When we have something that happens at our school and a student captures it on their cell phone, we can't blame the technology. We have to look at what's going and what caused that to happen."