MWHS principal says student recordings of large dismissal melee made ‘matters worse’

Principal Elise Soto issued a statement to parents and the community Monday afternoon calling the incidents “deeply concerning.”

Blaise Gomez

Sep 19, 2023, 3:48 PM

Updated 302 days ago


Monroe-Woodbury administrators are responding to safety concerns and criticism after Friday’s large student melee at the high school during dismissal.
Principal Elise Soto issued a statement to parents and the community Monday afternoon calling the incidents “deeply concerning.” She says videos shared to social media made “matters worse” and paint the district in a negative light.”
“Our school has worked hard to establish a positive reputation. Social media should be used as a tool to showcase our achievements, talents and the wonderful things happening at the school,” said Soto.
District officials say disciplinary action will be taken against as many as seven students identified as being involved in the fights, as well as any others who recorded them.
“Those students who were involved in that fighting will get very severe consequences,” says Monroe-Woodbury School Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez. “We do not allow that behavior.”
Since the fights, an online petition seeking to fire high school principal Elise Soto has gained almost 500 signatures, citing a “rapidly declining” environment for students and staff allegedly plagued by an increase in student drug use, bullying and physical assaults.
District Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez says the petition appears to have been started by someone who does not live or go to school in the district, and that she stands behind Soto and the job she’s doing overseeing 2,300 district students.
“I think she and her administrative team have done a great job. I think what is unfortunate is that anybody can write anything and say anything anonymously. If there’s a real concern, we ask that people pick up the phone and give us a call,” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez says a district investigation of the melee Friday found that a school safety officer seen on the ground in student cellphone video was not pushed during the incident but fell while trying to break up one of the fights.
“She is a very well-respected safety officer. My understanding is when she fell, our students helped her get up again,” says Rodriguez.
The superintendent says the staff member is OK.
Parents reached out to News 12 over the weekend with concerns that district varsity football games were moved to Saturday mornings, instead of Friday evenings, due to the student altercations. Rodriguez says varsity football games have been held on Saturdays since 2021 due to safety concerns about holding sports events at night.
Rodriguez says the district had hoped to accommodate student requests by seniors for at least one football game “under the lights” before the end of the season this weekend, but that the special event is being reconsidered for October due to safety concerns following the fights.
Town of Woodbury police say no one was injured during the melee and that the student altercations were dispersed by the time they arrived.

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