East Fighting Causes Concerns

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

For the second time in as many weeks, multiple student fights disrupt class at a Rockford high school. Last time it was Jefferson, now East.
School leaders say a fight broke out in the cafeteria during the last lunch period. Then a student pulled the fire alarm, sending East's 1800 students flooding out the building. Once outside, another fight started.
"A riot that's how it looked. I was just trying to get out of the way. I didn't want to get hit or nothing," says East freshman Latifah Warner.
Rockford police responded to break up the fights, at times using pepper spray. They arrested 15 students, including the one who pulled the alarm.
"Preliminarily we have battery charges, disorderly, resisting," says Rockford Police Deputy Chief Theo Glover.
School leaders do not know of any injuries. They're now reviewing security tapes to see if the incidents inside and out are related. They're also working on ways to prevent future violence.
"We've hired a security coordinator. We're starting to train staff at our sites as to how we're going to handle situations such as this," says Tom Hoffman, the district's chief operations officer. Interim superintendent Linda Hernandez is out of town.
District leaders are also working on ways to alert parents more efficiently. Thursday they posted the information on the district's website. But some say that came too late.
"I would like to know! I would have liked to have been informed much earlier," says East parent Verna Rentsch.
Rentsch says this incident just adds to others that make her worry about her child's safety at East. And though police don't know yet what caused the fights, many kids have the same idea.
"Most of the times when there's a fight like that, cause it was more than one person, it's usually gang-related," says East junior Clayton Dunlap.
School did resume Thursday just about ten minutes after the second fight. East's principal Todd France says students were never placed on lockdown, though they were told they had to say in their classrooms during their 8th hour class. Students did go to 9th hour and finish out the day. France expects a normal day Friday.
It's unclear whether another fight that landed two students in police custody Wednesday is connected with Thursday's incidents.
Hoffman says he's not sure what's behind the recent bouts of violence in Rockford schools. The school board voted this week to establish committees with parents to improve communication.


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