By Ryan Lewis
The idea of a “fight club” at Fennville High School is overblown, according to superintendent Jim Greydanus.
The event at the heart of the investigation was an isolated incident, said the superintendent, and another student’s response to it reflected well on the district’s efforts to encourage positive behaviors.
“A headline and article in the Jan. 3 Allegan County News refers to a report of an investigation into a ‘fight club’ made by the Fennville Police Chief to the Fennville City Commission on Dec. 17,” Greydanus said.
“A reader may gather from this report that this is an ongoing concern rather than the actual isolated incident involving two students and some bystanders.”
He said a high school student alerted staff Dec. 7 of a potential issue. The assistant principal investigated and discovered that on Dec. 5 “there had been a fight between two students in the boys’ restroom during the lunch period, and later that evening one of the participants created a Facebook group labeled ‘Fight.’
“The two students who fought and one other commented in the group about fighting again on Friday, Dec. 7,” though that didn’t occur.
Greydanus said the boys who had fought were disciplined along with others present for the fight, per school policy.
“There is no tolerance for participating in or promoting violence at Fennville Public Schools,” he said. The incident was also referred to local law enforcement for review.
The Allegan County Prosecutor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on whether charges would be brought in the case.
“We are very proud of the student who stood up for a safe school environment and reported the concern,” said Greydanus. “This student’s action is consistent with the district’s promotion of positive behaviors and our involvement with the OK2SAY and Be Nice programs.
“That student had said, ‘Hey, we don’t want that here.’ And saying it’s a ‘fight club’ doesn’t represent our high school students; it doesn’t show that it was limited to one fight between two students and another who egged them on.”
OK2SAY is a statewide effort to help students anonymously report bullying, threats of violence and criminal activity. In addition to a website, michigan.gov/ok2say, students can also download a free app.
Fennville’s Be Nice program, created by the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, encourages positive behavior. As described at benice.org, “Be Nice is a mental health education, bully and suicide prevention initiative that creates a positive cultural change through simple daily actions” which teaches “people to notice, invite, challenge, and empower themselves and others.”