ZEPHYRHILLS — A student videotaping a fight at Zephyrhills High School last week captured a dramatic image of Principal Andy Frelick appearing to break up the altercation by tackling the aggressor with linebacker-style urgency.
Quicker than you can say “social media,” the video appeared on YouTube and Facebook, drawing quips that praised the principal’s aggressiveness, but also demonstrating that, at least in this case, some of the school district’s anti-bullying efforts may not be getting through to everyone.
Zephyrhills High, like schools throughout Pasco County, is involved in an anti-bullying campaign. As part of that, Frelick said, students are encouraged to take action when they see bullying happening.
“We are trying to encourage bystanders to do something,” Frelick said.
In this case, that could have meant intervening to calm down the aggressive student or finding an adult to do so.
Frelick expressed disappointment that instead a student decided to videotape two other teenagers about to come to blows, allowing the conflict to escalate until Frelick, who was nearby, heard the commotion and came running.
“Stuff happens and I’m here to ensure the safety of all kids,” Frelick said.
Frelick said the fight occurred just before the start of the school day Thursday. Most students already were inside the building, but about four or five people were standing around in the area outside where the confrontation happened, he said.
The principal declined to say what the fight was about because student discipline matters are private, but on the video one of the students can be heard denying that he stole the other’s shoes.
By lunchtime Thursday, Frelick learned that a video of the confrontation was on Youtube. A copy also found its way to Facebook.
The sad part is, he said, if someone had been seriously hurt, the student videotaping the fight would have had a lifetime of guilt because he or she didn’t do anything to prevent it.
As for that daring tackle, Frelick said looks and videos can be deceiving.
He said he meant to break up the fight, not take down the student, but as he rushed up he tripped. The more aggressive student was about to take a swing and was also off balance, so as Frelick stumbled into him the two of them went down.
The student was uninjured. The principal bruised an arm when he hit a railing.
“It wasn’t a graceful moment,” Frelick said.