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Apologies to all members of Project Mayhem, but we do have to talk about Fight Club in order to explain the crazy situation that just unfolded at Montville High School in Montville, Connecticut. While the 1999 David Fincher film is a masterpiece in terms of writing, production, and cinematography, it has fostered an entire subsection of adoring fans that take their love of the film way too far. In this particular case, a 23-year-old substitute teacher at Montville High started his own fight club comprised of his students—who, just to be clear, are children.
According to NBC, the state investigation into this brazen decision to involve students in matches of physical violence found that Ryan Fish, the teacher responsible, had encouraged this fight club from the start. Fish, who has now been charged with two counts of risk of injury to a child and four counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and breach of peace, claimed he was at a loss in terms of how to manage the students.
“I didn’t necessarily let them do it,” he said. “I just wasn’t aware of what to do. I didn’t know how to handle the situation.” The investigation reportedly began in December, when a social worker from the Department of Children and Families contacted state police about a 15-year-old kid showing signs of trauma. The boy told the social worker that Montville High School students robbed and beat him, which led the police to look into the school and its employees. According to NBC, Montville High had already fired Fish last October for starting the fight club in his math class, and that videos showing the club in action cropped up online.
“As soon as we learned of his involvement in this, we immediately terminated his employment,” Superintendent Brian Levesque wrote in a statement. “Student safety is our highest priority each and every day. We believe our staff does a great job of protecting the safety of our students each and every day. This situation was very unfortunate, but not indicative of our regular operations.” According to the arrest warrant application for Fish, he can be heard giving instructions to the students and encouraging them on the videos recorded from within the classroom. One of these videos even shows a kid vomiting into a trashcan.
The police interviewed the students, one of which claimed Fish started one fight by saying, “One, two, three” and letting it continue until a 16-year-old boy vomited. Fish then tried to resume the fight by saying “Round two,” but the students were literally saved by the bell ringing before the fight could continue. According to that 16-year-old, Fish was like a mentor to him, and that he didn’t hate his opponent but merely fought out of “dominance” for Fish’s appreciation. He added that he didn’t think Fish did anything wrong.
“I just try to be the teacher that the kids could come to and actually express themselves and actually work through their issues, kind of have a social thing,” Fish said. He reportedly told the police that there were four fights between September and October of last year, and initially didn’t think of them as anything more serious than lighthearted horseplay. When things got more serious, however, he claims he thought it should stop. “The truth is, I’m an idiot and wanted to befriend them,” said Fish. “I’m immature.” Well, yeah. At least he’s aware. Silver linings, and all.
“I thought these kids are just being rambunctious, I thought they just needed an out. If I had known what it was doing to the kids I would have done something completely different. I would have gotten out of that situation immediately, but I thought I was reaching those kids in some way,” he added. “I really did and I thought that that would help me get to them. But, I didn’t realize what was happening at the time. I didn’t know. I didn’t have the training to see what was going on. I am just so sorry.”