MANCHESTER -- A video showing a female student getting beat up by another female student in a stairwell at Manchester High School Central went viral Thursday night, sparking outrage from those viewing the footage on social media.
The video, posted to social media (it has since been removed) and shared with the media by family members, appears to show a girl being punched and pulled up the stairs by her hair by another girl.
Manchester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas issued a statement late Thursday confirming the assault occurred.
"Unfortunately, a student physically assaulted another student at Central High School today,” said Vargas in a statement. “The school will not tolerate any inappropriate behaviors and has taken immediate action against the perpetrator. Our families and students can rest assured the safety of our students is our main priority.”
A school district spokesman said no further information about the fight was available, due to the ages of the students involved.
The Manchester police daily log shows officers responded to Central High School at 12:40 p.m. Thursday for a reported assault. Police said Thursday night no further information was available due to the ages of those involved in the assault.
On Thursday, Melissa Garrard of Derry posted a message on social media identifying the victim in the video as her niece.
“As some of you already know my 14-year-old niece, Candice, was brutally attacked by five girls at Central high school today,” the post states. “She was made fun of, harassed and beaten in this unprovoked attack. Large chunks of her hair were pulled from her scalp and they stomped on her head on a back stairway. These nefarious girls recorded this attack from a cell phone (which they proudly shared) and punched the brave man seen in the video that tried to help her.
"She is a sensitive soul, beautiful, has a heart of gold and is a phenomenal soccer star.”
Garrard told a Union Leader reporter her niece was released from Elliot Hospital Thursday night.
“She just got home from the hospital and is resting,” said Garrard. “Physically she will recover, I’m more worried about the psychological damage this assault could cause.”
Garrard said she had no idea why her niece was attacked.
“It was unprovoked,” said Garrard. “She doesn’t know why they did that. She is popular, sweet, a top athlete, I’m guessing jealousy. I wish I could say...I’m visiting her (Friday) morning to get more information.”
Parents of Central students voiced displeasure Thursday with the vagueness of a message about the incident sent out by school Principal John Vaccarezza , which referred to the fight as an “unfortunate incident.” A message sent to parents later Thursday night provided some additional information.
“We neglected to include that the incident involved a student physically assault of a student at Central High School,” reads the later message from Vaccarezza. “ Although we cannot share specific details of student incidents, please rest assured that we will hold any student accountable for violations of our code of conduct.”
Reaction on social media to a video of the fight, as well as the vague nature of the message sent by the district to parents, was strong.
“This as a parent would worry me more than anything, getting an email like this,” said Robert Butler in a Facebook post. “So vague and it seems intentionally so. I’m sure many parents are flooding the phones searching for specifics and it’s quite odd that they’d rather have that than to be more specific in the emails. The emails invite panic to parents. It’s very poorly thought out and, in my opinion, extremely irresponsible.”
“Why not call it what it is?!?” said Chloe LaFrance-Stevens in a Facebook post. “What they should have said in that post is that a child was brutally attacked in the middle of their school and that every piece of their code of conduct was violated and as such the perpetrators will be held to their disciplinary policy. Disgusting.”
“I am in tears after watching this video,” said Courtney Rosette Sanchez on Facebook. “I hope the young lady heals quickly and the punks get what they deserve.”
Garrard created a GoFundMe page Thursday to raise money for her niece following the incident. The page can be found online at www.gofundme.com/christmas-for-candice.
Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org