Ritchie County Superintendent: Charges pending related to fights caught on video

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RITCHIE COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Ritchie County Schools Superintendent Ora Coffman told 5 News that students have been disciplined and the prosecutor's office is expected to bring charges, after the release of two videos that depicted fights involving high school and middle school students.

The Ritchie County Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday that officers were investigating apparent altercations at the Ritchie County High School and Middle School complex, but that "any criminal charges stemming from these incidents are strictly confidential by state statute."

The prosecutor's office could not immediately be reached Wednesday.

The two videos generated outrage in the community after they appeared on Facebook Monday, the day the fights occurred. In one video, a male student strikes another male student with his fist. A teacher enters the frame toward the end of the video and orders them to break it up.

Parents and community members said the second video is more disturbing. In it, a female student tackles another female student to the ground in the cafeteria.

The heated brawl lasts about 20 seconds, before the video abruptly ends. At no time in the video is an adult seen coming to their aid.

"Kids recording it...I just find that very disturbing that nobody stepped in to help these kids or do anything," said a parent of a middle school student. She agreed to talk to 5 News on the condition of anonymity.

"They just recorded it and watched it like it was a movie," she continued.

Coffman, though, said teachers responded appropriately, and that a PRO officer was stationed in the cafeteria during the fight there. The officer's view, Coffman says, was obstructed, and by the time he was able to make it across the room, the fight had ended.

Several parents have messaged 5 News, expressing concern that the fights reflected a broader problem in the schools, where they claim bullying and violence have persisted.

Ross Moore, the father of a Ritchie County High School student, took aim at the school administration.

"They'll never fix the problem until they admit that there is one," Moore said, via Facebook Messenger.

Coffman pushed back on these claims, pointing out that the number of fights is not higher than in any of the past five years.

"It is unfair and unwarranted to say that we always have fights or that our schools are not safe," he said.

Coffman added that social media posts have perpetuated false information about the atmosphere inside the schools.

Since the incidents Monday, Coffman said he spoke to several classrooms about the incidents and the district has cracked down on cell phone usage.