Watertown High School, 1335 Washington St. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — City police are investigating a physical altercation at Watertown High School that resulted in a student being airlifted Thursday to a hospital in Syracuse.

According to city police, there was some sort of fight between two female students at the school Thursday afternoon. One of the students was initially taken by Guilfoyle Ambulance Service then flown to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. The student was treated at the hospital and released the same day.

There were concerns over the child having a head injury, but it was not confirmed that it was caused by the other student involved in the altercation, according to police. An investigation is ongoing.

Shawna Dodge, the mother of the airlifted student, said the fight started in the cafeteria. A video that captured a portion of the altercation appears to show the two students exchanging a few words, followed by a scuffle. The video appears to show Ms. Dodge’s daughter hit her head on a table during the scuffle. Staff members intervened shortly afterward.

Ms. Dodge said that when she was called to the school after the fight, she got there and her daughter, 16, was unconscious and surrounded by first responders. Her daughter was unresponsive for the next roughly five to six hours, she said, until she came to and was sent home from the hospital later that night. She said her daughter still has complaints about head pain but that she’s OK.

With the exception of the 2020-21 school year, when students were largely virtual due to the pandemic, Watertown High School has reported more than one assault a year with physical injury to the New York State Education Department. The state has used the same reporting and definition of required reporting since the 2017-18 school year.

The data, available online through the department’s Information & Reporting Services website, lists school violence statistics.

In 2020-21, when students were largely virtual, the district reported one assault with physical injury, and one use, sale or possession of alcohol.

In 2019-20, when students were in school all year, the district reported nine assaults with physical injury.

In the 2018-19 school year, the district reported four assaults with physical injury, one weapons possession after a security check, four other weapons possessions, one cyberbullying incident and two reports of students using, possessing or selling drugs.

In 2017-18, the first year that records were kept in the manner they are now, the district reported one forcible sexual offense, one other sexual offense; 14 physical injury assaults; three assaults with serious physical injury; 13 discrimination, harassment or bullying cases that did not include cyberbullying; two cyberbullying offenses; four use, sale or possession of drugs; and eight use, sale or possession of alcohol.

Citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA, as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, HIPAA, District Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr said that the district always puts student safety first, but would not comment on the Thursday incident. She did say there have been multiple incidents in the district recently.

“It’s that time of year where we start to see an uptick in disciplinary referrals and behaviors, so it’s really very common that as the weather gets nicer, we start to see an uptick in behaviors,” she said. “It’s not unusual for us to have spikes and disciplinary referrals really starting in March and going through the end of the school year, so we’ve been putting out a lot of ParentSquare messages about empathy and really working with families on this.”

Mrs. LaBarr said there are also issues among students on social media and issues arising from students texting. Across multiple modes of communication available to students during the day, she said conflicts can often spill over into school from the virtual world.

Times staff writer Rachel Burt contributed to this story.

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