The 15-minute video posted online by two Naches Valley High School students, which was taken down Monday, showed a small crowd watching four fights in a large garage. Students who spoke on camera indicated there were other fights not recorded. In the final fight, a Naches Valley student withstood several punches and appeared to fall to the floor unconscious just before the video cuts off.
NVHS principal Rich Rouleau said an investigation revealed no school violations, since the event was held off-campus and not affiliated with the school in any way. Rouleau declined to go into detail but said he spoke to some of the students involved, as well as a parent who allowed the event in their garage.
School staff checked on the health of the student who appeared to be knocked out in the video and also spoke to his family. Rouleau said the student is OK.
“Obviously, safety of our kids is of utmost concern and what we value,” Rouleau said.
Three students at the event, including two who participated in a fight, spoke to the Yakima Herald-Republic on the condition of anonymity. They estimated about 20 people from NVHS, Selah, West Valley and La Salle attended, and one student said only one spectator was wearing a mask.
Those accounts matched a report at the end of the video saying the student who fell to the ground regained consciousness almost immediately and felt fine about 20 minutes later. Other students gave him water. Another student with two years of sports medicine training in high school administered an abbreviated concussion protocol.
Each fight featured friends who agreed to box for three one-minute rounds, with the option to opt out at any time. Every participant wore boxing gloves and a mouthpiece, and the fight reset anytime someone stepped outside a large brown rug that served as the ring.
The student who fell went down at the edge of the rug but avoided hitting his head on the hard concrete by falling on his arms and the shoes of a person standing nearby. No adults were in attendance during the fights, according to a student who was there.
Yakima Police Athletic League boxing coach Reid Goyette, who didn’t watch the video, said people hitting their head on a hard surface represents the biggest danger at fights without proper supervision.
“Another thing about this is nobody knows what they’re doing in this,” Goyette said. “You can get hurt in this, and it would be like giving kids a bunch of motocross bikes that have never ridden a motorcycle and say, ‘Have at it out on the little track we have out in the garage.’ It would be disastrous.”
Goyette said YPAL’s gym and most others in the area have been closed since March due to COVID-19 guidelines from the Yakima Health District. Current regulations in Phase 1 prohibit indoor social gatherings with people from other households.
Naches Valley School District nurse Penny Johnson said in an email that when she saw the video, she immediately notified the administration about her concerns, including the consideration for potential COVID exposure.
West Valley High School remains on a remote learning schedule, while Naches Valley, Selah and La Salle have all adapted hybrid options. None of the schools have offered any extracurricular activities since March.
All three students who spoke to the Herald-Republic play sports and said multiple fight nights offered a way to contend with the boredom during this unprecedented school year.
“This is a byproduct,” Rouleau said. “These are the things that folks struggle with a little bit … what are the kids going to do?”
Rouleau said the parent he spoke to assured him no similar events would be allowed on their property in the future.