Last week, Ohio’s East High School in Youngstown was the site of a massive fight among students and at least one adult that not only created chaos, but shut down the school the following day.
WKBN-TV’s Amanda Smith reports that students at the school were splattered with pepper spray, and several were put in handcuffs after the free-for-all in the cafeteria.
Six people were taken from the campus by dozens of officers who arrived to contain the outbreak. One man was taken away from the school for climbing a fence to get to his child. One person is known to have been charged after the altercation, but police officers say they anticipate more charges will be filed.
Youngstown City Schools Superintendent Steve Stohla said the situation was chaotic, and he was forced to scream instructions to the parents who had gathered to let them know what was happening. He explained that some angry students used their ire as an excuse to fight one another.
The school was closed after a modicum of order was restored and remained closed on Wednesday as advised by the police department. Stohla said he would meet with the students involved in the conflict.
Courtney Ross, a high school student, said she was most upset about the use of pepper spray.
“I had in contacts. I was trying to walk up the stairs, and it was burning, but everything was going blurry, so I tried to hurry up and taken them out. Then it started burning even more, because I guess I broke the seal with the mace, so it got on my actual eye. So they started pouring milk on everybody’s face that got maced and stuff,” she said.
Senior class president Tawanna Dowd said she was sad. She added that her school was like home to her, and she did not want to come to school being fearful of an attack. Dowd also stated that this type of action starts at home. She wants parents to discipline their children.
Glorise Richardson, a mother who has two children who attend East High School, said her children were not coming back to the school. And her decision was not based solely on this latest flare-up. She notes that kids cannot learn because of the noise disruption in classes. She adds that there are not enough books and there were not enough math teachers at the start of the school year, reports Michelle Nicks for WFMJ-TV.
Stohla, the interim superintendent, said he would bring more counselors into the school and would increase security measures. He continued by sharing that he had not seen anything like this in his 40 years of working in education. He maintains that he is not sure why the fight even happened.
Some members of the community are upset that students were maced by the police. They also want to know if a plan was in place and if or how it was executed. Stohla replied that the Office of Homeland Security had approved the crisis plan, and Chief of Security Bill Morvay told Leslie Barrett of WFMJ-TV that the plan was in place when the school was on lockdown.
Morvay added that in certain circumstances mace has to be used. In this situation, many students were involved, and they were not responding to verbal or physical separation methods. Pepper spray disperses a crowd and allows security workers to get to those who are fighting to reduce the number of people who are injured.
“Given the situation, I would argue that it went very smoothly,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Milton Walters.