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ASG probe: Rock throwing incident caught on video

fili@samoanews.com

Department of Education has called a meeting Thursday with a government attorney, three lawmakers and police to review a video clip of a rock throwing incident that occurred Saturday after Fagaitua High School beat Tafuna High in the 2011- 12 American Samoa High School Athletic Association football championship game.

The 40-second video clip, which was on the Facebook page of John Wasko, and distributed by others. It shows some 20 students, who appear to be from Tafuna High, throwing rocks towards vehicles with Fagaitua High School flags at the three-corners of McDonald's restaurant and the old Army Reserve Center in Tafuna.

The video was also received by DOE.

"It's very disturbing to see students throwing rocks at cars as a way to express their feelings about losing a game," DOE director-designee Dr. Jacinta Galeai said yesterday, responding to Samoa News questions.

"How and where did these students learn this behavior - that when you lose, you and your friends stand by the road and throw rocks at cars? Did the schools teach them to throw rocks at cars? Did they learn it at home? Where and how?," she asked.

"We need to do a better job at teaching those values to students but we can't do it alone. We need parents to be teaching the same values," she pointed out. "We need all adults who have any contact with students to be teaching the same values. That's the more challenging and difficult task."

Galeai said DOE is meeting Thursday with officials of the American Samoa High School Athletic Association (ASHSAA), Assistant Attorney General Terri Bullinger - who handles juvenile cases for the government; Reps. Larry Sanitoa, Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr. and Taotasi Archie Soliai; and hopefully representatives from Social Services and Department of Public Safety to review the video and to discuss an appropriate course of action.

"If you view the clip carefully we can identify the students so we will call a meeting with them and their parents. We also have to re-examine current school policies and procedures and identify what changes we need to make," said Galeai. "If it is decided that we should ban or suspend schools whose students participate in this type of behavior then we have to."

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Tafuna principal Lentoy Matagi said yesterday that she had not seen the video clip yet. "I will wait to see who the students are in the video, and then go from there," she added.

LAWMAKERS' REACTION

Tapumanaia said this is an unfortunate incident and he believes the Department of Education should be involved and punish these culprits.

"Tafuna High should not allow these kids back into the school as they clearly have no regard for people's lives or property," he said Monday after reviewing the video clip. "There were no police anywhere around because they don't have enough manpower to handle these types of incidents, that are spread out."

He called on the ASHSAA to convene a board meeting to review the video clip "and bring severe punishment and sanctions against these students who can be easily identified in the clip throwing rocks."

"I don't believe Tafuna High School and its administrators, coaches and teachers can be solely blamed for the actions of a few... because I can attest to their efforts to constantly reach out to the students to please stop giving the school a bad name and reputation," he said in an e-mail message to Galeai and his colleagues Sanitoa and Soliai. "Unfortunately, this is not the first incident and judging by the crowd of students that participated, it won't be the last."

"There has to be some kind of harsh discipline that sends a message to these students that this behavior will not be tolerated at all," he said. "I feel we should ask for the support and help of the village chiefs and councils to discipline these students who are identified, and their parents, if they are the cause of these types of incidents."

Responding to Samoa News questions, Taotasi said he hopes there were no injuries to people or property as a result of the rock throwing.

"The incident last week was both unfortunate and disgusting. The video posted on Facebook and highly circulated portrayed a very ugly picture by some very young people, and I cringed just watching it," the Ituau lawmaker said yesterday. "This is the first time, I believe, that this type of incident has been documented on video and it paints such a gloomy picture of the violence and lack of discipline that these young people have."

He points out that Tafuna High School is not - and should not - be blamed for this incident "as I am confident that Principal Matagi and her staff are excellent disciplinarians and do not condone this type of activity."

"However, we are seeing more and more of these incidents and they must be stopped. Appropriate actions need to be taken in order to get the message across to the public, young and old, that these actions will not be tolerated," he said. "This video presents concrete evidence and I call on the authorities within DOE and DPS to take appropriate action."

"This incident is a cowardly act and should not be tolerated! Action at all levels must be taken to prevent any further instances like this and any inaction may come across as a message of condoning and will just encourage more and more of these incidents," he said. "Public security is a top priority and we need to ensure the community that their safety is paramount."

Also responding to Samoa News, Sanitoa said, "This unfortunate incident is all the more reason why we - parents, teachers, DPS and the community - need to continue engaging in finding solutions to prevent unnecessary acts of malice by our youth... Successful sports programs in our schools cannot be discouraged and marred by such incidents instigated by only a handful of students."

"It is in the interest of everyone concerned to get involved and find positive solutions to promote good sportsmanship in our youth, and continually foster the positive side of competing in both academic and sports activities," Sanitoa said yesterday.



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