This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Fighting is a big part of schooling; not just the punch up itself, but the theatre, the braying crowds cheering, "Fight! Fight! Fight!", the half-hearted attempts to break it up and the underlying divisions of race, class and coolness. Sometimes fights settle petty scores of stolen pencil cases or stolen boyfriends. At their worst, they reveal a brutal, feral side to otherwise charming schoolchildren.
Mostly, break-time fights are forgotten by fifth period. But some stay logged in your psyche for a little longer. I spoke to some people about the most memorable fights they witnessed or partook in during their time at school.
VICE: What was the biggest fight you ever saw at school?
Laura: It was about four months into year seven. I had made friends with the most popular girl in my form and she had started dating this guy who was 17, which was a drama in and of itself.
One morning, we were supposed to be going on a school trip to Kew Gardens and were all waiting in our form room to do the register when this girl from year 10 who was a renowned bully and hard as nails stormed in screaming, "Who the fuck is this bitch who's fucking my man?"
A huge slanging match ensued and eventually they both just ran at each other and were slapping, biting, hair pulling, proper nasty fighting. The year 10 girl clawed out a massive chunk of my friend's hair, like a bloody clump! Then my friend picked up a chair, and slammed her around the face with it. She went flying through the air and was flung into a wall.
Woah. Was she okay?
At that moment teachers ran in and an ambulance was called. The girl was knocked out.
Did anyone try to stop it?
Mostly people did fuck all but it all went so quick - there was definitely some "Fight! Fight! Fight!" chanting though. The older girls were pretty intimidating and everyone had stepped back because we all thought it would go the other way, that the older girl would smash her up and leave having taught her a lesson - but then she pulled out the chair. I grabbed her arm to try and stop her because that was way too much, but she was in beast mode and I made absolutely no difference.
Were there any repercussions?
The school trip was cancelled for the whole of our year and everyone in our crew got weekend detention for a month, even though we were nothing more innocent neeky year seven bystanders. Everyone was so scared of us after that, just by association. My mad friend got internal suspension but got to keep the boyfriend, though he was a right numpty so I don't really know who got the last laugh.
VICE: When did this fight take place?
Dallas: When I was 15 I was really naughty. I'd run away from home and lived with my boyfriend in his trailer and just sat around smoking weed all day. I hardly went into school and didn't really care about making any friends. I wasn't scared of anyone.
Who did you fight?
There was a group of "tough girls" in my school that everyone was afraid of but I don't think I was at school enough for them to care about me, so we were cool. The fight was all over some bullshit: one of my friends had been hanging out with a cousin of one of the tough girls and they started bullying her, shouting really horrible stuff at her. I was hanging out with her in the common room one day and the girls came up to us and started chatting shit to her. I told the tough girls to shut the fuck up. Then one of them just went for me.
Did she beat you to a pulp?
I was smaller than the other girl but I'm also really wily and good at fighting, so I actually smashed her face in pretty good. It wasn't long before her friends broke it up but it was vicious while it lasted.
Did you get in trouble?
They called our parents but I'm really lucky in that my dad has always got my back. I told him that I didn't start the fight and was just sticking up for a friend so he stood up for me, but the head teacher told him that she didn't think it was safe for me to come back to the school. It was the last week of school and I missed out on our graduation assembly which kind of sucked.
Was there any further retaliation?
The girl who I beat up turned up to one of my friend's houses looking for me and smashed her car windows with a baseball bat. I was at my boyfriend's, obviously.
VICE: You went to a boys' school so you must have seen a lot of fights - what was the worst one?
Jay: We had a new student in school who had managed to escape the war in Afghanistan. They had a special assembly to introduce him. He was new to the country by about a couple of days, spoke no English and we were all told to be great school ambassadors, welcome him in and help him integrate with everyday school life. By lunchtime, a helicopter ambulance had landed in the middle of our playground. It airlifted the kid out on a stretcher with a pencil stabbed firmly into his neck.
That is fucked up. Who was involved?
It was pretty much a free-for-all between some of the local misguided goons in school and some of the other Afghan students. They had a lot of anger and a lot of baggage that they decided to direct towards this kid.
Did anyone try and step in?
Nah, as with any school fight, if you're not involved or someone who isn't your mate isn't in it, you generally just stand around looking at the action, enticing it on and routinely putting a closed fist to your mouth muttering "oh shit" whenever you saw a deep connection land.
So how did it end?
The new kid got helicoptered out and never came back again.
Did anyone get expelled?
There were a lot of expulsions. Our school had a history of violence and a lot of students had run-ins with the police both before and after this incident. Also Ofsted were in that day – I can't say they were impressed.
VICE: Tell me about this fight: what went down?
Dolly: School had been over for about half an hour and I was in my form room with some other dweebs and my form tutor, when we heard a hell of a lot of noise and sirens outside. Turned out all hell had broken loose on the road outside school – there were police vans and police everywhere trying to manage a huge scrum of people fighting.
What the hell was going on?
I don't think anyone really knew what had happened until the next day – loads of kids came into school badly beaten up. One lad in my year had to have stitches in his face. It was pretty gruesome. It turned out it was a planned fight with some kids from the "rival" school. The police had been tipped off when someone found chair legs with screws hammered in, in the bushes near the school. God knows how it got so out of control.
So it was just a free-for-all on anyone from your school?
Basically, yeah. I don't know if that was the original intention but it's certainly how it ended. The police were very heavy-handed too, so anyone trying to make their way through basically got caught up in it one way or another.
What were your two schools like?
My school had a bad rep which I always thought was unfair as I loved it there, it was really diverse and people got along for the most part. I remember being put off by the signs in the classrooms reminding me that it was illegal to bring a knife to school when I first started, though. The other school was notorious: it had always had a really bad reputation and looked like a prison from the outside. I don't think anyone ended up there by choice, when I was little I was always told that if I was naughty I'd be sent there.
Were there any arrests?
There were some arrests made but I don't think anyone was charged. No one was in trouble as far as I'm aware. We had a new headmaster and I remember feeling so sorry for him having to deal with this shit in his first year at the school. He held an assembly about it but the main focus was on how badly the police had handled the situation. I know he took it to the IPCC, but I'm not sure what the outcome was in the end. He was really supportive of the students, which was lovely.
More from VICE: