Caught on Tape: Teen Girls Fight at Philadelphia High School

Girls punch, kick teen repeatedly.

Jan. 7, 2010 — -- Three teen girls have become viral stars for brawling with one another in the halls of Edison High School in Philadelphia.

The fight happened Tuesday in one of the school's stairways, school officials said. Video shot by a student shows two girls attacking another on the floor. The two students kick and punch the girl repeatedly. No school security can be seen breaking up the fight. Other students can be seen gathering to watch the fight.

"The students involved have been suspended with the intent to expel, and at present, the mother of the young lady who was assaulted does intend to keep her at the school," said Shana Kemp, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia School District.

School officials said that the young girl attacked in the fight does not have any serious injuries. Philadelphia police are investigating the fight, the officials said. Edison High School serves more than 1,500 students.

The video is one of thousands posted on YouTube showing teen girls fighting. Psychologist Jim Garbarino studies teen violence and said that while teen boys are still more violent than teen girls, the gap is narrowing.

"In a number of ways, you can see the disparity in physically aggressive behavior between girls and boys narrowing," said Garbarino, author of "See Jane Hit: Why Girls Are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It." "All the barriers to girls' physical aggression have in many ways been removed."

Garbarino said that when boys and girls are born, they are equally agressive as infants and children, but societal attitudes typically suppress agression in girls as they get older. Images on television and in the movies have shifted, though, to show more aggression among female characters, he said, and that has affected girls' behavior.

Also, girls are encouraged more today to participate in activities like sports that encourage aggressive behavior, Garbarino said.

National crime statistics show that over the last ten years the number of arrests of females has risen by 11 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Teen arrests have gone down for both males and females over the last ten years, but there's been a sharper decline in male violence than female violence. Male violence decreased by 22 percent over the last 10 years. Female violence decreased by 13 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Video Posted on Web of Teens Fighting

Garbarino said that posting video of girls fighting on YouTube is another way to encourage and normalize aggression in girls.

"You look at one video and then it pulls up related ones. One video of girls fighting puts you in a stream of thousands...becoming sort of a self sustaining, self-escalating phenomenon," Garbarino said.

"Every [violent] visual image strengthens that impulse in kids...the craving for celebrity is so great, it doesn't really occur to them that there are consequences," he said.

The person who posted the video of the Philadelphia minors has not been identified and has removed their account from YouTube.

Sociologist Nikki Jones studies fighting among girls in tough inner cities like Philadelphia, and said that part of what appears to be an increase in aggression in young women is really the result of stronger enforcement by police and school officials.

"We are much more quick to arrest teen girls for fighting than we were 30 years ago," Jones, author of "Between Good and Ghetto: African American Girls and Inner-City Violence," said.

Jones said videos like the one from Edison High School make it easier to focus on the girls fighting, and "sensationalizes the idea we have about young women being out of control."

"There are these gender expectations that we're all socialized under, so we all have an idea what it means to be a lady, and a big piece of that is you don't fight...but a lot of these girls grow up in the neighborhoods where they can't be good girls all the time," said Jones.

In tough, poor neighborhoods, fighting can give girls social power against a backdrop of violence resulting from the drug trade, Jones said.

"It's much easier to focus on the girl who fights than to focus on what's making her fight," she said.

Back at Edison High School, officials still don't know what caused the fight. Students and parents told ABC Affiliate WPVI that fighting at Edison High School has become all too common.

"I wouldn't exaggerate, there are a lot of fights here. It's not like this is a bad school, but there are a lot of bad kids in here, it's fights every day," 9th grader Briana Sullivan said. "I was just about to be in a fight today."

An Edison student posted on Facebook that there was another fight at the school Thursday.

A veteran police officer who patrols the Edison High area in the morning and when school is dismissed told WPVI that the school is "off the hook" and there are a number of fights each week.

The officer went on to say "girls are the worst," and problems include an all-girl gang called "The Tinkerbells."

School officials disputed that claim, telling ABC News that "The Tinkerbells" do not exist at the school.

"This is not gang related from anything we've seen from our school police and our principal investigating this," Kemp said.

School district officials said that violence at the high school is down 10 percent from last year.