FOURTH UPDATE: Police confirm arrest of student at East High School, deny reports of ‘rioting’
Editor’s note: The following report was updated at 11:20 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 19.
From staff reports
Rockford police confirmed Nov. 19 the arrest of a male student for aggravated battery for allegedly punching an assistant principal at East High School Nov. 18. The police, however, denied reports of a riot at the school.
The Rock River Times received reports from both students and parents of students at Rockford East High School that a “riot” occurred at the school Wednesday, Nov. 18, around lunch time.
Mark Bonne, director of Communications for Rockford Public School District 205, said Nov. 18 that no students were escorted out of the building or arrested. He also denied any allegations of mass violence. He said the incident report stated there was a fire alarm, everyone was evacuated, and then another fire alarm was pulled after everyone returned to the building. He said any allegations of violence or students being escorted from the building were unfounded. “We both know how the rumor mill works,” Bonne said. “All these kids have cell phones.”
TRRT Staff Writer Joe McGehee and Photographer Daniel Jenkins, who were on the scene after the incident, reported seeing what appeared to be two students taken away by police in handcuffs. They also reported seeing two Rockford police squad cars and a police van. Two Rockford police officers were seen in a hallway inside the school.
An East High School student said there was a fire alarm earlier in the day, then another one leading into the lunch hour. The student said a food fight broke out in the lunch room, and these fights have become a regular occurrence at the school.
According to the student, the Wednesday, Nov. 18, incident included fighting, hitting, screaming, throwing of trash cans, breaking tables and people punching other people in the face. The student said the whole school was practically involved in the incident, and people were coming out of classrooms. The student said approximately 60 percent of those involved in the incident were directly involved in violence, while the rest of the activity included students running and general chaos.
The student also said the incident was likely gang-related, and there would likely be further retaliation and violence in the days ahead. The student estimated approximately 30 percent of the school is involved in gangs. The student said Aryan Brotherhood, Latin Kings and the Gangster Disciples are present in the school. The student added regularly seeing other students with knives in the school, particularly in the morning.
At least one parent of an East High School student reported seeing approximately five Rockford police squad cars outside the school, and about six students running out the back door of the building. The parent described it was very loud, and said there was fighting in the stairwells and hallways, and food was being thrown around, along with plates, chairs and tables.
East High School Security Guard Juan Reyes denied anything happened at the school Nov. 18, and said maybe the reports TRRT was getting from parents and students was in regard to Eastern Illinois University and not East High School. McGehee and Jenkins were also informed they would need to wait until 3:30 p.m., Nov. 18, to have anything confirmed because the entire administration was in a meeting.
McGehee and Jenkins were also told they would need prior permission to be on the school grounds before 3:30 p.m., and that they could not take photos on school grounds.
According to a 13 WREX report, “Police say the school did a fire drill and then when the students were heading back in someone pulled the alarm again and many students were running around outside.”
According to the same report, students reported “there was some fighting going on, but police say that is not true.”
The alleged Nov. 18 riot is reminiscent of a similar riot that occurred at East High School Sept. 27, 2007. As reported by the local daily Sept. 28, 2007:
“Twelve students were arrested Thursday [Sept. 27, 2007] at East High School and more may be forthcoming after fights inside the school and on the campus broke out.
“The melees brought as many as 15 Rockford police and Winnebago County officers to the Charles Street campus.
“The fights seemed to be triggered by a fire alarm at 1:42 p.m., prompting a mass exodus of students.
“School officials said it has not been determined what caused the fights, but students say the fisticuffs were gang-related and planned.”
See the Nov. 18 WREX report at http://www.wrex.com/global/story.asp?s=11531290.
Check back to rockrivertimes.com as further details become available.
Staff Writer Joe McGehee, Assistant Editor Brandon Reid, Editor & Publisher Frank Schier and Photographer Daniel Jenkins contributed to this report.
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