Police confirm Nov. 18 arrest at East High School, deny ‘riot’ or violence
By Joe McGehee
Rockford police Sgt. Mike Spelman confirmed today, Nov. 19, one arrest at East High School Wednesday, Nov. 18. He said the student was arrested for allegedly punching an assistant principal.
“The juvenile was arrested for [allegedly] punching an assistant principle in the school’s cafeteria,” Spelman said. “He was charged with aggravated battery.”
The Rock River Times’ 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.
At press time, numerous calls to the Rockford Police Department to confirm further arrests have gone unreturned.
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. Spelman denied reports of a “riot,” and also said there were no reports of violence by students.
“I was advised by officers on the scene that there was a large group of kids running around the hallways returning from a fire drill that refused to go back into their classrooms,” Spelman said.
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. Spelman confirmed there was a broken table.
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.
“We weren’t made aware of any fighting,” Spelman said. “We couldn’t see any fighting as we approached [East High School]. No students reported being part of a fight, and video cameras showed no obvious fighting. However, there was a broken table in the cafeteria.”
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.”
Spelman also confirmed two additional officers responded to the East High School campus Nov. 18, through the school’s police unit. The additional officers were requested by administrators to aid in getting students back to their classrooms after a fire drill.
Mark Bonne, director of Communications for Rockford Public School District 205, said Nov. 18 that no students were arrested. He denied any allegations of mass violence. Bonne also 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.
Spelman echoed the remarks of Bonne, stating there were no reports of violence by students.
Assistant Editor Brandon Reid, Photographer Daniel Jenkins and Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this report.
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