desks school stock classroom

Advocate file photo of school desks.

Twenty-four students at Lee High School in Baton Rouge are facing suspension after videos surfaced of them of fighting in boxing matches in school bathrooms.

Taylor Gast, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, would not say how long the students are to be suspended from the prominent magnet school, but said it will be the same amount of time for all 24 of them. The student handbook specifies that short-term suspensions last from one to 10 days.

School officials are meeting with the families of students identified in the videos. While some families had initially indicated they planned to withdraw from Lee High, Gast said she's not sure how many will end up doing so. She said the suspension would apply whether the students stay or if they leave Lee for their neighborhood high school.

She said all 24 students donned boxing gloves and fought in one-on-one matches; none of the 24 being disciplined were just spectators. She clarified that only a handful of those involved are players on Lee High’s football team but wouldn't say how many; the school relaunched its football program last year after a decade hiatus.

Gast said the school system is not planning to expel these students, but clarified that it also won't force them to leave Lee for the neighborhood high school for which they are zoned. Suspension is the only discipline they are facing, she said.

“We recognize that a lot of these kids are really good kids, but they made really bad choices,” she said.

Gast said the first report of a boxing match on school grounds came to school officials just before Thanksgiving break.

“We thought it was an isolated incident,” she said.

But after Principal Rob Howle and his team resumed their investigation Monday after students returned from break, they realized that there had been a series of fights, perhaps a dozen, earlier this year. The fights were captured on video, but don’t appear to have landed on social media or been widely shared, Gast said.

Gast acknowledged that the fights were not typical of the fights that schools normally see. No one was hurt, and the students involved were friends engaging in what some students have likened to “playfighting.”

“It was riding that fine line,” Gast said.

Nevertheless, these fights could have gone very wrong, she said.

“What could have happened was so terrible,” she said. “Someone could have hit a sink.”

Lee High School, located 1105 Lee Drive, along with Baton Rouge Magnet High are the only dedicated, or schoolwide, magnet high schools in Baton Rouge. Both have selective admissions to get in, and both draw students from across the parish. Lee has about 1,100 students and has an A academic letter grade from the state.

Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.