UPDATE: Students defend CF Jell-O wrestling event - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Students defend CF Jell-O wrestling event


A video of what some are calling a high school homecoming tradition is also drawing some concern from parents.

It's a video posted to YouTube of Jell-O wrestling which apparently happened at Birdsall Park in Cedar Falls last Thursday.

The video was removed from YouTube after it was shown on KWWL Tuesday night.

The video shows a large crowd of high school students cheering on girls in a pool of Jell-O as they try to pull off their opponent's T-shirt.  The video is set to music with explicit lyrics and also features some censored footage of girls flashing the crowd.

Cedar Falls superintendent Mike Wells says he had no idea this event was taking place. This is his first year with the district.  Wells says in the future he will work with police to prevent this from happening again, calling it "unacceptable."

Several students involved in the event are speaking out about this unofficial homecoming tradition.

According to these students, a girl will call out another girl to wrestle with the goal to take the other person's shirt off.  Students stress the wrestling is voluntary, with no one forced into the spotlight.

They say about 20 different matches happened that night, and most of the students were under the age of 18. They say the intent was not to hurt or harm anyone, but to celebrate homecoming and have fun.

"Well, I've done some pretty crazy things, but I would rate this kind of down the list. It wasn't really harmful to anyone. I mean if someone were to get hurt and they closed down Birdsall for us to do this, we're just going to take this to someone else's backyard next year and there's not going to be police there to supervise. Who knows what will happen then," said Cedar Falls student Hunter Bell.

Initially, KWWL reported Cedar Falls police did not know about the event, according to a shift commander with the department. Later we spoke to Chief Jeff Olson who confirmed that several officers were at the event and have been every year since some problems came up in 2009.

"This is one of those situations where it doesn't matter what we do. We're going to catch heck for it. If I have officers go there I'm going to catch heck for it. If I don't have officers go, and you get more fights occurring outside of the pool, when we get called to assaults and drunkenness or you have a drunk driver get in an accident, then I'm going to get called and asked why I wasn't there. So it's a no-win situation for me," said Olson.

Cedar Falls police first learned about Jell-O wrestling after hearing reports of fighting and underage drinking in 2009.

"What we started doing every year after that is when people told us about the event, we had officers go there," he said.

According to Olson, the officers never stopped what was happening in the Jell-O pool, because students were not doing anything to violate city code. The students have every right to be at the Birdsall Park, they followed the rules, were out before the park closes, and cleaned up before they left. Some may say it's inappropriate or disturbing, but the chief says, it is legal.

"If we were to charge somebody I don't know what that would be for. I can say there's definitely some questionable behavior. It's not something, if I had a daughter, that I want her participating in," said Olson.

Some people on social media sites are questioning the behavior of the officers after pictures were posted on Twitter of officers standing with the teens. Olson says, he has no problem with how his officers acted.

"That particular officer wasn't posing. It was something that happened that he couldn't control. We encourage the officers that, if it's appropriate, if you want your picture with them, to do that," he said.

Olson expects to have more conversations between his department, the city, and the school district, "and decide how we want to address this in the future. The one thing we don't want to do, obviously we'd just assume this not happen. But we don't want it to go underground and make it worse."

Olson likens this event to a boxing match, saying everyone participating knew what they were getting themselves into. He says they can't arrest people for public disturbance if no one reports the disturbance, and if a girl came forward to press assault charges she should be prepared to face consequences for her role in the fight.

Several students and one parent have called the station defending the event. The parent told KWWL that she supported her daughter's participation and does not feel that the YouTube video is representative of the event as a whole.

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