Four arrests at East High School Nov. 18-19; post a comment sharing your thoughts about the safety of our schools
Editor’s note: The Rock River Times wants to know how you feel about the Nov. 18-19 incidents at Rockford East High School and your general thoughts about the safety of Rockford schools. Post a comment at the end of this article or send a letter to the editor by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org with “Letters to the Editor” in the subject line. Include your name, hometown and phone number with any letters to the editor. Phone numbers will not be published. More about these incidents and other Rockford Public School District 205 coverage will be included in the Nov. 25-Dec. 1, 2009, edition of The Rock River Times.
By Brandon Reid
The Rock River Times’ repeated attempts to contact Rockford Public School District 205 and the Rockford Police Department regarding any further activity at Rockford East High School Friday, Nov. 20, were unsuccessful.
District 205 Executive Director of Schools Earl Hernandez returned a phone call later in the day Friday, Nov. 20, but reporters were unavailable at the time, and further attempts to reach Hernandez for comment were unsuccessful.
Rockford fire and police units were called to Rockford East High School for two consecutive days Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 18-19, after students pulled a series of false fire alarms. Students and parents alleged students were “rioting” during the false alarms and having food fights during the lunch periods. District 205 administrators and Rockford police, however, have denied any allegations of violence.
According to police and District 205 administrators, at least four arrests were made over the two-day period.
Rockford Police Sgt. Mike Spelman confirmed Nov. 19 the arrest of a 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.
Rockford Police Deputy Chief Theotis Glover 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.
Two students were arrested Nov. 19. “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 also 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.” Hernandez 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.
At least one East High School student has reported regularly seeing other students with knives in the school, particularly in the morning. The student also said the Nov. 18-19 events were gang-related, and that Aryan Brotherhood, Latin Kings and the Gangster Disciples are present in the school. Glover confirmed the presence of gangs in Rockford schools. However, police and District 205 administrators denied the Nov. 18-19 incidents were gang-related.
One student said a number of students left school after the Nov. 19 incident. The student added 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.”
Read previous reports, including comments from two students, about the Nov. 18-19 incidents at East High School by clicking on the following headlines:
UPDATED: More fire alarms pulled at East High School, more students arrested (Posted Nov. 19—includes comments from an East High School student and a Guilford High School student)
Staff Writer Joe McGehee contributed to this report.
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