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UPDATED: More fire alarms pulled at East High School, more students arrested
Posted By Brandon Reid On November 19, 2009 @ 6:47 pm In Happening Now | 2 Comments
Editor’s note: The following post was updated at 5:50 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19.
By Brandon Reid
Rockford police and fire units were called to East High School for the second consecutive day today (Thursday, Nov. 19) after students set off a series of false fire alarms.
Rockford Public School District 205 Executive Director of Schools Earl Hernandez said the first alarm was activated around 12:50 p.m., the second one was set off about 30 minutes later and a third was activated around 2:45 p.m.
“There was an arrest made by the police on one of them because one of the security officers observed the student as he pulled the alarm,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said there are “30 [fire alarm] pull stations in that building. We do, unfortunately, have a couple of dead zones [no video cameras]. We’re hoping we can catch them on film.” He said the district was working on adding more cameras to cover all of the pull stations.
Hernandez, who was on the scene today, said there were no reports of violence. He also said there were no reports of violence yesterday, despite students’ claims that there was rioting at the school.
Students, however, have again stepped forward to say there were more riots and violence during Thursday’s false fire alarms, and more violence is likely tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 20.
“The incident yesterday that happened was gang-related,” said an East High School student. “I knew yesterday that this was going to happen again today, and I’m sure it’s going to happen again tomorrow if they don’t have any security there.”
Hernandez said there was an extra security presence at the school Nov. 19. He said the number of administrators was increased to six and the number of police officers was increased from two to four. He said the only trouble was being caused by about 150 to 200 students.
“There was a group that was walking down the hall making a lot of noise and being very disruptive,” Hernandez said. “150 to 200 kids were in the hallway while the rest of the student body went about their business and went to class.”
Hernandez said there was a food fight during first lunch, and said one student was arrested for allegedly throwing “a large waste container in a reckless manner.” He said two other students were also cited under the district’s discipline code in relation to the incident. He said no incidents occurred during the second and third lunches.
“That’s what we’re hoping is that we catch the few who are doing those things and stop it because the overwhelming majority of the kids in that school just want to go to school,” Hernandez said. He said administrators will be at District 205 offices late tonight (Nov. 19) trying to assure parents of students at East High School that the school is safe.
Hernandez said: “I would say to the parents, ‘Don’t let the few ruin it for the many. If you do, you let them win. Let your children go to school. Let them go to class.’”
Students, however, paint a different picture of the past two days’ incidents at East High School.
One East High School student reported there was a lot of fighting again during the first of today’s false fire alarms. “Just a lot of fighting; no guns or knives,” the student said.
The East High School student added: “The gangs had a meeting and it’s all been planned out. They’re using the fire alarms as a way to get out and they’re having distractions on either the front or the back of the school. So, they’re using distractions to start fights in other places.”
Although District 205 administrators have not said the incidents at East are gang-related, Rockford Police Deputy Chief Theotis Glover confirmed the presence of gangs in Rockford schools. He said he doesn’t understand why students don’t come forward with their fears.
The East High School student also reported after the Nov. 18 incident that more incidents could be expected Nov. 19. The student also said the Nov. 18 incident was likely gang-related and 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.
During today’s first fire alarm, the student said, “From what I could see, there was only about 2 percent of the school NOT running towards the fight.”
The student added that a number of students left school after the incident and said that many students have expressed fear and believe it is all a disruption, “because nobody wants to deal with that. They had the same thing happen [in 2007] and it’s the same thing that happened pretty much two years ago.”
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.”
Regarding the Nov. 18 and 19 incidents at East High School, the East High School student added: “I don’t really know [what the solution might be] because I know having more enforcement there makes kids uneasy. They don’t like the police. The administrators do a good job anytime things are not crazy.
“Teachers are most uneasy there because they think it’s just kids being kids,” the student continued. “But it’s not, because you’ve got kids in there punching each other in the face.”
The student said he expects another fire alarm and food fight tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 20, and added that “people will leave, especially because it’s a Friday. If they have higher enforcement there, that’s the only way I can see they can bypass rioting.”
Regarding the food fights, the student said these are not ordinary random food fights adults might remember from their childhood. “It has been happening very, very recently and it’s not something that…this happens on practically a weekly basis,” the student said. “I believe that with having three lunches they shouldn’t have problems like that at all. If they have to, put more administrators in there.”
The student also added that some students who are not directly involved with the incidents like them because it means they get to go home for the day. “Why should they [speak out about the violence], because they like it because they want to leave,” the student said. “So everybody’s going to contribute to helping.”
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. However, after repeated phone calls to the District 205 office and the Rockford Police Department, The Rock River Times has learned otherwise.
Rockford Police Sgt. Mike Spelman originally confirmed Nov. 19 the arrest of a single male student for aggravated battery for allegedly punching an assistant principal at East High School Nov. 18. Hernandez said that incident was not related to the Nov. 18 fire alarms.
However, later in the day Nov. 19, Glover also confirmed there was a second arrest made at East High School Nov. 18 for a weapons charge. Glover would not confirm what the weapon was, but said it was not a gun. “It was an object a student shouldn’t have at school,” Glover said.
Staff Writer Joe McGehee contributed to this report.
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
URL to article: http://rockrivertimes.com/2009/11/19/updated-more-fire-alarms-pulled-at-east-high-school-more-students-arrested/
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