Joey Comeaux shared the now infamous Facebook video of a student fight at Acadiana High School that resulted in a mom's arrest as a warning to his community.

The video, which depicts a fight in which a student hit his head hard on a concrete bench, was removed from the social network just before Maegan Adkins-Barras was arrested for posting it. Comeaux said more people need to see it.

"We were advocating the video being shared because this is a potential warning sign," Comeaux said. "This is what can lead to an active shooter situation. This school needs to be prepared for that situation — not just law enforcement but the school and students and employees need to be prepared. They need to be ready to say something if they see something. Clearly, these students were saying something."

Comeaux owns a local active shooter training business called Cover Six Training Academy. The Church Point native said after students are expelled from school for fighting, they'll sometimes return to the campus to retaliate against students and administration.

"It is unfortunate that what happened at the school is being overlooked because of what happened to Maegan," Comeaux said. "It's unfortunate because I think it puts the kids and staff at greater risk because what happened isn't being addressed."

What isn't being addressed, according to Comeaux, are the underlying issues that led to the fight in the first place.

It isn't clear what disciplinary actions the two students involved in the Feb. 19 fight at Acadiana High faced or if they are back at the school. Their names and discipline records are protected by privacy laws.

"Typically, when high school students fight, they are recommended for expulsion and must have a hearing," said Joe Craig, chief administrative officer of the Lafayette Parish School System. "At the hearing, the hearing officer decides whether the student returns to school or is placed at an alternative site."  

 Fights at Acadiana High School

Source: Louisiana Department of Education discipline records and Lafayette Parish School System enrollment numbers
  2013-142014-15  2015-162016-17  2017-18
 disciplinary incidents for fighting 100 105 197 194 143
 total student enrollment 1,744 1,785 1,872 1,887 1,681

Students are only suspended or expelled from school after "other available consequences have been exhausted" and "only in the most extreme cases," according to the LPSS Code of Conduct. Fights are considered to be "extreme cases."

But research shows that kicking students out of school as a form of discipline does little good for anyone.

It lowers the chances of success for the student being disciplined, and it doesn't make the school safer for those left behind, according to a 2018 report called "Disciplined and Disconnected" by America's Promise Alliance, a partnership of nonprofits dedicated to better futures for young people.

Expulsion is recommended but not required for those involved in fights at Lafayette public schools.

"Although fights typically result in a recommendation for expulsion, the school administrators look into the circumstances and details of the altercation," Craig said. "Likewise, at the hearing, the hearing officer looks at the particular students involvement as it relates to the altercation as well as the student's past behavior, attendance, etc."

What does work, according to the "Disciplined and Disconnected" report, are restorative practices, school-wide positive behavioral intervention systems and social emotional learning. In other words, a student shouldn't be removed from the school and situation after a fight but instead should face it by identifying harm, undoing harm and restoring damaged relationships.

The frequency of fights at Lafayette public schools hasn't changed significantly in recent years, according to disciplinary incidents school administrators report to the state.

Fights at all Lafayette public schools

Source: Louisiana Department of Education discipline records and Lafayette Parish School System enrollment numbers
  2013-14 2014-152015-16  2016-17 2017-18

disciplinary incidents for fighting

 1,992 1,565 2,029 2,065 1,917
total student enrollment 29,533 30,056 29,986 29,210 29,204

Fights tend to happen in clusters, with a noticeable increase in fights in the weeks leading up to the fall and spring breaks as the school year "gets a little too long" for some students, according to Craig. 

"One year, one school is a little higher, and the next year, that school is a little lower," Craig said. "It varies from season to season and school to school, so no, we don't necessarily see specific trends."

Acadiana High School, which has been in the spotlight since the Feb. 19 fight, has slightly more disciplinary records for fighting than other high schools in the parish when student population is taken into consideration.

David LeJeune, the school's principal, said there hasn't been an increase in fights or severity of fights in recent years.

"We have our fair share of problems," he said. "Kids will choose to fight here on our campus, but the majority of it is problems that come from social media or are brought in from the neighborhood."

Fight records per 100 students at Lafayette high schools
Advocate analysis using state discipline and local enrollment data 
*Southside High opened in 2017-18 school year with only freshmen and sophomores.
 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16  2016-172017-18 
 Acadiana High 6 6 11 10 9
 Carencro High 12 11 14 16 14
 Comeaux High 2 2 5 4 4
 Lafayette High 3 3 3 3 6
 Northside High 6 5 18 18 15
 Southside High*     6

Although problems leading to a fight may start outside of a school, removing students from the campus — even just for a day or two — won't do anything to resolve those problems.

"Fights used to happen at schools, and it was over and done," Comeaux said. "But now, the kids fight and they're sent away from the school. The fights are deemed unfinished, and they're coming back with weapons to finish the job."

Guidance counselors and school resource officers are always available to students who feel threatened or bullied by current or former students, LeJeune said.

"All of this has just been bad publicity," he said. "We have 1,700 kids doing the right thing, and we end up focusing on the two that do the wrong thing instead. Unfortunately it was our kids and our school."


Follow Megan Wyatt on Twitter, @MeganWyattACA.