The claws come out:
Teen catfights on rise on the T
By Laurel J. Sweet
Cops are grappling with escalating girl-on-girl violence in Boston as fights have become so intense that the "fair" sex is even caking faces with Vaseline to give attackers' nails the slip. Four flare-ups between female youths at two stations on the Red and Orange lines were doused on Sept. 26 alone, according to an internal memo the Herald obtained from the MBTA. Transit police are now sending a Female Intervention Team into schools.
"Girls like to look for problems," said sophomore Giselle Colon, 15, on her way home from high school one recent afternoon. "They gossip a lot. They start rumors. And that's how you start fights. My mom says, `Don't fight. But if someone hits you, hit back."' Suffolk Law School's Juvenile Justice Center has teamed with the Operation Stop Watch partnership of Transit, Boston and school police and Suffolk juvenile probation officers to understand how and why female youths, typically ages 13 to 17, express anger.
"We've learned, as we suspected, that there is a definite spike in female youth problems, arrests and incarceration," said Transit Police Lt. Mark Gillespie, whose department has arrested a half-dozen teenage girls since the start of the school year for brawling in MBTA stations. Police said that in preparation for battle, girls will grease their faces with petroleum jelly and tie their tresses back so it's harder for opponents to grab a fistful. "When males fight," Gillespie said, "they fight and it's over. When girls fight, it's an automatic audience. [An audience? For greased teenage girls fighting? Surely not... :-)]
"If they were given a forum like this, God knows what could happen," he said, glancing around the bustling Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain, where some 1,200 students from nine high schools cross paths between 2 and 3 p.m. As of Oct. 1, girls accounted for 17 percent of the Department of Youth Service's committed caseload. Since 1995, the number of females committed to DYS has ballooned by 168 percent vs. an increase of only 7 percent by males for the same decade.
Tatiana Ojeda, 16, said she's seen plenty of girls fight. "I see them pulling hair, swearing at each other, scratching with their nails, stomping on each other." Operation Stop Watch officers recently began passing out "consequence" wallet cards to students as a friendly reminder of what it means to be arrested, what being arrested can cost (a driver's license, a college loan) and who has access to juvenile court records. "We use them as an icebreaker – a way to talk to the kids," Gillespie said. "We hope they'll read it. Usually, girls fight for the same reason boys do: Over nothing."
Girl fights pack punch:
Concern runs high among parents, teachers
By Kimberly Atkins
As the going gets tough in Boston schools, girls are getting rougher. Violent female feuds are now as routine as the lunchtime bell, said Luz Dominguez, 15, a Madison Park High School student. "We see fights every day," she said. "We see them at the train station - those are the worst." As the Herald reported last week, girls from Madison Park High, Hyde Park High and other schools regularly trade punches with one another in MBTA stations and public buses, spurring transit cops to send intervention teams into schools.
But the rise in violent behavior among girls at school is sparking particular concern among parents, said City Parents Council Chairwoman Beverly Mitchell. Earlier this year a 13-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School student had to be handcuffed by police after she allegedly beat a fellow student in the hallway and bit a teacher's finger - all because she thought the other girl's skirt was too short.
Police and school officials are concerned, too, said John Sisco, chief of the Boston Public Schools Police. "I don't know if it's a change in times, the emergence of more girl gangs or what," he said of the rise in girl-on-girl fighting in schools, adding that school police recently implemented a new electronic incident report system and school officials plan to study the reports to determine how frequently such violent attacks take place.
Students say most fights stem from two age-old roots: rumors and cliques. But nowadays girls use their fists to settle squabbles - and they're not afraid to admit it. "One day (a girl) just came up and hit me. I wasn't just gonna let it be like that, so I hit her back." said 15-year-old Madison Park High School student Amanda Pimental. Although she used only her hands in the fight, she said other girls don't think twice about brandishing weapons, and school metal detectors are no deterrent.
"It doesn't do any good because people still bring (weapons) in their shoes and stuff," she said. According to Sisco, girls aren't just fighting other girls. "Girls will stand up to boys much more than they did in the past," said Sisco, who has worked in Boston schools for 17 years. "The girls watch the boys fight. The girls watch TV, too. They see pistol-packing women in movies beating up guys."
Janie Victoria Ward, an education and Africana Studies professor at Simmons College in Boston, also blames media stereotypes. Said Ward: "I really worry about messages that are out there - especially about women of color - that we are tough brass, that sort of hand-on-the-hip, finger waving, `I'm not taking any stuff from anybody' message." A recent University of Florida study found that by seventh grade, more girls are involved in at least five hitting or shoving matches in urban schools than boys, suggesting a growing teen meanness gender gap. "Girls are just particularly vicious," explained one Boston Latin School student.
Source: Boston Herald, October 10 + 16 2005
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