MORGAN PARK — A compilation video of students fighting at Morgan Park High School went viral this week after being posted on Facebook.
The video set to music shows students fighting and other mischief at the school at 1744 W. Pryor Ave. The video posted on Saturday had 519,777 views by Wednesday morning.
Principal Carolyn Epps said the videos were taken in September 2016. Students involved in the videos were all disciplined according to Chicago Public School policies, Epps said. A CPS spokesman said that "based on physical markers in the videos" some of the footage is more than a year old.
"I don't know why it is recirculating," Epps said of the videos, which appeared recently on several Facebook pages for Morgan Park alumni.
Carisa Parker is the chairwoman of the local school council and a 1992 graduate of the school affectionately known among alums as Empehi. Two of her children have graduated as Mustangs. Her daughter is in eighth grade at the school's academic center.
She said fighting has become an increasing problem in "the last couple of years."
Parker said she believes Epps and the council focused too much on improving test scores at the school of 1,377 students.
So improving school climate was made a priority last year. Parker estimated about 30 students were causing most of the problems. Epps reached out to the parents of those students in an effort to find a solution.
Still, the 2016 School Progress Report compiled by CPS ranked the school "very weak" in the safety category. This category asks respondents, "Do students feel safe in and around the school building and traveling to and from school?"
Michael Passman, a spokesman for CPS, said incidents of serious misconduct have actually fallen by 20 percent in the last two years throughout the city.
And during the 2013-2016 school years, CPS' out-of-school suspensions dropped by 67 percent; expulsions decreased by 74 percent; and notifications to the Chicago Police Department fell by 39 percent, Passman said.
"This disturbing footage is a montage of old videos that do not reflect the current culture and climate of Morgan Park High School. Significant progress has been made at the school to provide a safe and positive environment for all students and staff," Passman said.
Brandee Stanton of West Pullman graduated from Morgan Park in 1997. Initially, she scrolled past the video on her Facebook feed and was upset by others who were sharing it and commenting.
She said some of those who commented and shared the video said they did so in the hope that parents and others would see it and work to correct the behavior if they spotted their children in the footage.
"I hate to see that. I hate to see any youth behaving badly," said Stanton, who once pictured her son following in her footsteps by becoming a Mustang once he graduates from elementary school in three years.
Stanton, who previously worked as a school nurse for CPS, said fights are common at all high schools, and she doesn't believe the video proves Morgan Park has any more or less of a problem than anywhere else.
"These are teenagers. There is peer pressure, boyfriends and girlfriends," she said.
Stanton also said she's heard of her alma mater's International Baccalaureate program and other good things happening at the Morgan Park. Nevertheless, she's leaning toward sending her children to a different school.
"Why would [area families] send their children to the neighborhood school where they don't think they are safe?" she said.
Such sentiment troubled Parker. She said improving school safety must remain a priority. But she also thinks that highlighting the success of her alma mater also becomes increasingly important in the wake of the video.
"We need to tell our story, or other people will tell it for us," she said. "Most of the kids who go to Morgan Park are great kids."