The parents' outrage stems from video footage shared on social media last Friday that shows dozens of students throwing punches at one another in Waltrip's gymnasium — with very few teachers or other supervising adults to be seen.
The minute-long recording begins with two students struggling to restrain another pupil intent on delivering a knuckle sandwich to an individual standing on the bleachers.
— Christian 🥴 (@chrisjenjb) April 26, 2019
Once the frustrated student wiggles his way out of the hold, he manages to throw the first punch at his target, setting off a series of brawls in the stands and on the gymnasium floor. Some students can be seen standing off to the side as the action unfolds.
At one point, at least four students were seen attacking the individual who threw the first punch before other pupils intervened, attempting to settle the brawl. School officials do not appear in the footage until late in the recording.
Students were reportedly forced into the gymnasium during lunch as a result of overcrowding at the school.
Local news outlet The Leader reported that multiple students were injured and that ambulances were called to the school to transport pupils to a nearby medical facility. The Leader became aware of the scuffle after a shocked parent emailed the publication a link to a video of the fight.
"There was not one adult on the scene. How that happened I don't know," a parent who wished to remain anonymous told the outlet. "I've seen all the chatter back and forth about what's really going on over there. I've seen nasty comments about hysterical parents. Well, perhaps now, you can see why we are hysterical."
The Houston Independent School District (HISD) released a statement on Friday saying officials were aware of the matter and that they "do not condone this type of behavior."
"It is always our top priority to maintain an environment where our students and staff are safe and productive academic instruction can take place," the statement goes on to note.
However, while safety may be a "top priority" for officials, this isn't the first time that a fight has broken out at the high school, and the Friday brawl wasn't even the only one to occur that day. Teachers and parents informed journalists with The Leader that there were at least three other scuffles.
The situation at the school has reached such a level that Jonathan McElvy, publisher of The Leader, published an opinion piece on Wednesday to address the backlash his publication has been receiving over its reporting on the school.
"We have one goal, and one goal only. We want the problems at Waltrip addressed," McElvy wrote. "We want the school to improve. We want the administration to be candid with the parents. And we want our students to walk into school without an ounce of fear. They deserve that, and every single one of us should want that."
"In a year from now — maybe at the start of next semester — all of this will be forgotten. But today, right now, it is important that we're aware. It's important that something change. And if some of our readers are mad at us, and question our judgment, we'll take that a thousand times over if Waltrip High School improves," he added.
It's unclear what caused the upset student to throw the first punch. Elizabeth Santos, HISD trustee, told local news station ABC 13 on Monday that an investigation into the matter is ongoing.