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Gibbs teacher got busy signal when she called for help with fight caught on video

ST. PETERSBURG — The teacher caught in the middle of a fight at Gibbs High School last week called the office for help, but got a busy signal, a district official said Wednesday.

"The teacher called for assistance, and the line she called was busy. It was a stressful situation, and rather than calling other available numbers, she focused on defusing the argument," Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokeswoman for Pinellas County Schools, wrote in an email.

A video of the Jan. 28 fight posted online by a Gibbs student depicted the teacher standing between two female students for several minutes as tensions escalated and the fight became physical.

School Board members, politicians and community activists who viewed the video said they were shocked and disappointed that no one came to help the teacher.

Rene Flowers, the School Board member who represents the area including Gibbs, wondered whether classrooms need panic buttons.

Parra said last week that it was not clear when the teacher requested assistance.

But on Wednesday, Parra said the teacher had used her classroom phone to call the school's front office for help before she comes into view in the video.

"As the situation escalated, a student left the class to get assistance. A teacher in the classroom next door heard the commotion, called for assistance and went into the classroom," Parra said in the email.

She said administrators arrived in less than a minute.

Both the students who fought and the student who posted the video online have been disciplined, Parra said, but declined to say in what manner. Student disciplinary records are private.

School officials have also declined to say what type of class this was, saying that information could identify the students.

Video of the fight circulated on Facebook last Wednesday even after the student took the original video down.

Gibbs, a St. Petersburg campus that improved its school grade from a C to a B last year, suspended more students for fighting than any other high school in Pinellas last year. More than 20 percent of students were sent home for at least one day for fighting.

"Only at Gibbs, man," says a male student before the video ends. "Only at Gibbs."

Some students were disappointed that Gibbs' academic progress was overshadowed by the fight, as the video swept social media and made headlines.

"Walking through the hallways at Gibbs, there has never been a time where I felt unsafe," junior class president Alexandra Fox wrote in an email to the Times.

Staff and students "have made a profound effort to move away from the reputation the school had garnered in the past," Fox said.

Lisa Gartner can be reached at lgartner@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

Gibbs teacher got busy signal when she called for help with fight caught on video 02/05/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 10:31pm]
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