September 16, 2022
Just days after a video circulated on social media depicting a brutal beat-down in the boys’ bathroom at Beaumont ISD’s West Brook High School, parents of the campus’ population were again forwarded a video of a subsequent fight reportedly taking place in the gentlemen’s lavatory – this one attracting a crowd in the double digits.
As a West Brook High School parent tells The Examiner, the new bathroom fight video being volleyed about the student body is especially concerning considering the frequency in which unattended youth are engaged in violent activity at the campus.
“It’s a cluster…,” the parent expressed.
But the hits don’t stop coming. Yet another video witnesses say was taken in the halls of West Brook on Monday, Sept. 12, shows an all-out melee with more than two-dozen teens fighting, videoing or running for cover as pandemonium propagates.
“My child tells me they don’t go to the bathroom during school,” the parent continued. “They just don’t know what they’re going to walk into.”
Less than a month into the new school year, the week of Sept. 5, a video taken in a West Brook bathroom garnered viral attention on various platforms, media outlets and concerned citizens’ personal pages. Viewers commented on the brutality of the bloody beating that resulted in serious injuries to the youth victim, as well as what should happen to the assailant – also a minor – who punched the teen on the floor more than 10 times before finishing with a field-goal kick to the face.
Following up on public outcry, Fox News aired a program that purported to show the West Brook assault – but the program contained the wrong footage. BISD immediately sent word that the “story presents false information and does not depict a bathroom at West Brook High School.”
BISD did address the fact that, “a similar incident occurred and a video is circulating our community,” agreeing that, “the behavior displayed is unacceptable.” However, calls for comments from BISD Superintendent Shannon Allen went unanswered Wednesday, Sept. 14.
The video in review begins with a student in a purple shirt and black pants punching another student wearing a white shirt and navy shorts. The aggressor appears to punch the victim at least twice as he tries to escape. The student in the purple shirt then grabs the victim and slings him to the tile floor, where the assailant punches the downed teen 13 times in the head.
At least three other students can be seen in the video, watching the fight unfold without intervening. The spectators can be heard making a few unintelligible comments as the student in the purple shirt repeatedly says, “B—- a– (n-word)” to the victim, who is white.
“B—-, stop playing with me,” said the assailant as he stood over his victim.
The video ends with the assailant kicking the victim in the head as the boy lies on the floor holding his head in defense and pain.
“Some media affiliates would have you believe that students are being attacked for no reason,” BISD said in a statement released at 10:39 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13 – the same night West Brook fighting was mentioned on a national television broadcast. “This is not true. The video currently circulating social media is an isolated incident.
“Fighting at school is a concern that we continue to address daily. But this video is not indicative of student behavior at West Brook High School.”
However, students offer a different valuation. In an effort to gain a more thorough understanding of the allegedly pugnacious campus population, The Examiner spoke to several West Brook students on the corner of North Major Drive and Phelan Boulevard after school Sept. 13.
The first student was immediately familiar with the bathroom video depicting a student getting punched 13 times in the head, saying violence escalating to the point of blood like that is unusual on the campus – although fights of various degrees aren’t at all uncommon.
“I’ve been here for four years, and that’s the first time I’ve seen anything like that,” said the senior, whose identity The Examiner is withholding to protect the teen on campus. The student added that he hears about small fights “here and there,” but never anything so bloody.
When asked if West Brook was a generally violent campus, the teen responded without hesitation, “That’s fair to say.”
More than a half a dozen other students The Examiner spoke to also agreed with that assessment.
“There are fights, like, almost every day, or every other day,” said one student.
“Oh, it’s pretty bad here,” summed another.
As revealed in a subsequent video circulated after the viral content went mainstream, some of the violence is scripted between the participants. The video obtained by The Examiner shows yet another bathroom fight, but between two students suited up with boxing gloves performing before an audience of at least 20 teenage boys packing a bathroom, with some standing on toilets to watch the match. One student, and apparent referee, can be seen calling the violence into action with a sweep of his hand between the fighters and bellowing, “ding!”
The boxer in the foreground, who can be seen wearing orange gloves, starts swinging on the fighter facing the camera, as the latter attempts to block in the haphazard bout. The orange-gloved teen lands approximately nine punches to his blocking opponent’s head before the student referee attempts to separate the two.
The boxer facing the camera then swiftly exits his defensive stance and begins swinging on the other fighter, nearly hitting a few students in the audience in the process. The boxers then swing in and out of view until the video ends with a shot of a sea of phones recording the showdown.
Another video, this time capturing events from Sept. 12, shows a brawl unfolding in the hallways of West Brook. One student is already recording when another, wearing a black hoodie and pants, can be seen picking up and throwing what appears to be a trash can at the heads of two students, who ducked right under the projectile in the clamor. The target of the trash can throw then squares up and starts fighting a student who was standing beside the actual thrower. A fourth student can then be seen entering the frantic fray.
The already loud video then picks up in volume and chaos, as several more students begin waylaying one another. At least two seemingly separate fracases appear to form before anyone resembling a teacher or adult enters the scene. A man in a gray shirt and khaki pants can be seen attempting to subdue one student, while at least half a dozen others continue to create havoc in the halls.
The video concludes as the two fights appear to peter out and a crowd of phone-wielding students appears in the foreground capturing the events viewed by The Examiner.
“In general, it’s not super safe anywhere in the building,” a senior band student explained to The Examiner. As a member of SoundPower, the Bruin said he’s probably privy to one of the safest areas on campus – but he’s still cautious of his surroundings and careful not to draw unwanted attention from fellow classmates on a short fuse. “It’s basically a free-for-all.”
According to the student, a “huge lack of monitoring” leaves scholars like himself at the mercy of the whims of a few bad apples.
“There’s hostility anywhere you go,” he said. “Last week, I personally saw at least two fights and heard of another that I didn’t actually see myself.
“I’m not really a worrier type, but I can understand how some of my peers are scared of messing up and accidentally bumping into someone and getting jumped for it.”
Addressing the Sept. 10 incident the student called “a riot,” he said it showcased how the brawls escalate.
“It was crazy,” he said. “There were kids jumping in that weren’t even involved. I would say that’s the nature of a lot of the fights we see here. Others will jump in just because it’s a fight.
“There’s big pools of people. It’s a big form of entertainment for a lot of them.”
Asked if the student had any ideas as to what would make the campus feel safer, he suggested more staff.
“There’s not a whole lot of staff in general,” he said, detailing how multiple times since school has started the high school has held classes with no teacher present – and no substitute to fill in. “I had a teacher missing in one class and they put my class in the master teaching room with another class; and no one came in the entire time. No one even checked in or checked attendance or anything.
“At that time, the PA system was still down. We were all worried something would happen and we wouldn’t even know because there was no way to alert us.”
Safety issues at the door have the student concerned, as well, as he said he has first-hand knowledge of students bringing in boxing gloves for the bathroom cage fights, “dabs” aka vaporized marijuana or THC pens, and vapes.
“At security checks in the morning, there are only three or four administrators to search the bags. They pass it along without barely a passing glance – certainly never opening it,” he said. “I’m certain I could get something in the school. It’s 50/50 if they actually wand you if you set off the detectors.
“I’ve also heard of a technique people are using to sneak a dabs and vape pens. They put them in the bottom of their shoe and walk through – it’s too low and too quick and doesn’t even set off the detector.”
The student said that the smell of marijuana whiffs by frequently, usually dissipating before any adult intervenes, especially in the intersection of F Hall and J Hall.
“There’s really nothing a student can do about that except carry on and mind your own business,” he said. “If you were to approach someone, there’s no telling how they will react.”
To the soon-to-be graduate, the violence on campus doesn’t seem to be dissipating, and occurrences are becoming more commonplace.
“The first year back from COVID, a lot of people stayed home,” the student said of his last peaceful year at West Brook. “The last two years, it’s been really bad.”
At the beginning of last school year, a sophomore walking to class was assaulted in the West Brook hallway by two fellow students, sparking a yearlong battle for the family that has resulted in the victim leaving the school and the assailants never being identified to the family for prosecutorial purposes.
The parent of the victim in the hallway beating reports that she repeatedly confronted campus administration in an attempt to not only ascertain the identity of her child’s assailants, but to also press charges against those responsible for the unprompted act of violence. She was told that the offending parties were sent to the Pathways alternative campus for a period of time, and then allowed to return to their home campus at West Brook.
Not knowing who it was that blindsided him, the student felt constant anxiety while at school. The longtime honor student taking advanced courses began flunking class, becoming recluse, his health deteriorating with debilitating migraines that may or may not have been caused by the head trauma.
“He’s a good kid but he’s always been soft spoken,” the victim’s mother told The Examiner. “He’s also big enough to be self conscious about it.”
Her son was bullied his whole life – by “friends” in elementary school, by everyone in middle school.
“This is nothing new to us,” she said. “He has been bullied forever – and no one has done anything about it.”
The day her son was assaulted at West Brook, the doting mother didn’t even know anything was wrong until she picked her 15-year-old son up from school at the end of the day. He was holding a pair of broken glasses and covering a beat up face with a mask.
Pressed for answers, the teen told his mother a watered down version of the events, describing a brief couple-hit encounter that was no big deal.
“Now that I know what happened, I don’t know if he was trying to downplay it to save me the heartache, or because he just didn’t know what happened because it all came out of nowhere.
“I had no idea how bad it really was.”
A trip up to the school the following day didn’t give the victim’s parents any more insight as to what transpired either. Asking to speak with West Brook Principal Nicholas Phillips but being denied, the parents met with an assistant principal that advised he was unaware of the assault from the prior day.
“He pulls up the video; he won’t let me watch it, though,” the mom remembered. “They were protecting minors – which is how I thought it was supposed to be.”
“As soon as he saw the video, he said, ‘I know who those kids are,’” she added. Two additional officers viewed the video and responded the same way. “The last one was the officer that I believe deals with the gang violence. Everyone was really tight-lipped. But, he let it slip they were known gang members and were disrupting the school every single day.”
The victim’s family walked away still unaware of what was on the video.
Two weeks later, “everyone” would know what was on the video. Student-produced video of the assault was circulated online, the footage making its way to a friend of the family, who then forwarded it to the victim’s parents.
“When I did see the video, I was even more upset they did not insist I get my child medical attention,” she said. “In the video, you can see at least two other kids recording when the kids are sneaking up on him.
“It was so surreal. It made me want to throw up. Some of my friends saw the video, too, and they cried with me.”
The 2021 video obtained by The Examiner begins prior to the attack, the camera following alongside the assailants as they ready to pounce. The unprovoked surprise attack begins when a student wearing a black hoodie runs up behind the victim and punches him in the back of the head. The aggressor can be seen punching the victim in the head at least 14 times as another kid in a black hoodie runs up to the victim and aids in the assault.
A girl can be heard shouting, “Oh my god, stop!” moments before the assailants flee from their unwitting victim.
“He goes back to class; nothing was reported,” the victim’s mother lamented. The assault occurred early in the school day. “He went the rest of the day hiding in his mask after being beaten.
“He was shocked. He didn’t expect it; and, he certainly didn’t deserve it.”
The September 2021 assault was allegedly forwarded to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office for misdemeanor prosecution, but the victim’s family said there has been nothing but radio silence in the year since.
“They never would tell us the names so we still have no idea who did this to our son. Then, when I got the police report, to add insult to injury, the synopsis ticked me off: ‘Two students assaulted a student in the girls gym hallway, breaking his glasses and causing pain.’
“If that was all they put in the report, I’m super pissed.”
Whatever was in the case file presented for prosecution has never been publicly unfolded.
“Last I heard, it has gone nowhere,” the victim’s mother said. “I can only assume nothing ever happened with that.”
Requested information from the DA’s office was unavailable as of press time.
Moving on and trying to get her student back in the swing of things after the act of violence that threw him off course, the mom said she obliged when her son asked to be homeschooled.
“We have him in therapy; he just couldn’t handle it,” she said. “I can’t blame him.
“The whole system seems broken.”
Beaumont ISD District 1 Trustee Joe Evans defended the anonymity of assailants when addressing the viral bathroom beating video at the center of controversy, also arguing that criminal offenses are prosecuted according to the law of the land.
“The fact of the matter is this,” he said, “governing a school district is not the same as governing any other political subdivision. We are bound by confidentiality, our citizens are children, and we cannot disclose to the public how we regulate disciplinary issues. We follow proper procedures, and we adhere to the education code.
“If you are not the parent or guardian, it is none of your business how a child is disciplined on our campuses. If a student violates the student code of conduct, the student will face the appropriate consequence. If an individual commits a crime on one of our campuses, that individual will go to jail.”
Evans said the board, the administration and staff are ready, willing and able to address the issue of violence in the school district, and asks for the public’s support moving forward.
“I have given as much information as I can legally give regarding the situation,” he said. “My question now is, do we want to further grandstand on this issue, or do we want to work collectively on rectifying the problem?”
BISD’s Board of Trustees are expected to receive a discipline update at its Thursday, Sept. 15, public meeting of the board. The meeting is set to begin with an executive conference behind closed doors in chambers for the elected board members at 5 p.m., with the public meeting to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the BISD Board Room, 3395 Harrison Ave. in Beaumont.
© 2022 Beaumont Examiner
September 16, 2022