Brockton, Mass. – Usually, when natives from Brockton, Mass., throw punches, the people rejoice. After all, it’s the home of world-class fighters Rocky Marciano and "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler.
But when a principal for an alternative school for dropouts refereed a fistfight between two students, there was no joy in the City of Champions.
"He let us go at it until we thought it was time to stop," 18-year-old student Nick Rodrigues said. He wasn't going to let it get out of hand to a blood bath."
Rodrigues goes to Champion Charter School in this town 24 miles south of Boston, a school for kids with impoverished backgrounds, spotty records or a history of trouble. When he and a classmate, also 18, had gotten into an argument, it wasn’t surprising the two were ready to settle it with their fists.
"We were going to fight no matter what," Rodrigues said.
What did prove surprising was when the principal, Curtis Wells, stepped in – not to stop the fight or suspend the students, but to act as referee. He took the two to a classroom in the basement and observed as they fought.
The fisticuffs lasted only a minute or two, and no one was hurt, but Mayor John Yunits was furious.
"To tolerate violence within the confines of the building is counterproductive to everything we stand for," Yunits said.
The school board has started an investigation.
Wells told the mayor that he feared that if he didn't let the boys fight it out at school, they would have taken it to the streets, where it could have escalated to the point of involving weapons.
Wells refused requests for an interview, but kids at his school backed him up.
"How many times you open up a newspaper and read that somebody was killed because of an argument at school, when it could just be settled like this?" one student asked.
But Yunits said that was no excuse for sanctioning fistfights in a place of learning.
"That's not the message we want kids to walk away with," he said. "Maybe this once it worked but it's awful dangerous to set a precedent with this kind of behavior."
Even though the principal may still be smarting from the fight, there’s been at least one happy ending. Rodrigues and his onetime adversary shook hands and are now friends.