Jefferson High School Aftermath

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

This was the scene at Jefferson High School Wednesday. Multiple student fights broke out during lunch hour. Students say the violence stemmed from their principal, Kenneth Jackson's, suspension.
"Most of the people are fighting just because of the fact that Dr. Jackson's not here and they feel that's the number one thing they're going to have to do to prove they want him back," says Jefferson Junior Erica Jones.
Rockford's interim superintendent Linda Hernandez suspended Jackson Tuesday pending an investigation into hundreds of grades he changed from fail to pass last year, because he said parents had not been told their kids were failing.
Students walked out of class Wednesday morning in a school-approved, peaceful protest against the suspension.
"Some people were very appropriate and some took advantage of the situation. Once that happened it created some further problems," says Hernandez.
One student was minorly injured during the fighting and one other was arrested for resisting arrest and throwing a pop can at an officer. Police say there were no weapons found.
Around 12:30, school leaders decided to end class and evacuate the school's 2,000 students. Busses and parents came to pick kids up.
"She called me on her cell phone and I said they're kicking everybody out? What happened?" says one Jefferson parent Sylvia Lewis.
Many parents were upset school leaders did not contact them directly.
"At that time we were trying to keep the kids safe. As soon as we were able to talk to people we told the information," says Hernandez.
To prevent a similar scene Thursday, there will be added police at Jefferson all day.
"I can answer unequivocably that their child will be safe tomorrow and we will respond with appropriate resources and will respond with whatever need the superintendent or the school has," says Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson.
Epperson adds students starting trouble again Thursday would more than likely face criminal consequences.
Hernandez will not comment about Jackson's suspension. Jackson said in a phone interview he wants kids to focus on school and behave as they would if he were still in the building. He adds rumors he's considering leaving the district to follow former superintendent Dennis Thompson are untrue.
Rockford police are reviewing security tapes to determine who started the fights. Hernandez says there will be disciplinary action and possibly criminal charges against the insitigators. Parents will receive letters Thursday explaining exactly what happened Wednesday.


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