Meade High brawl started with one student bumping another

October 04, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane | Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writer

The brawl that erupted at Meade High School Friday morning was touched off early in the day when one student bumped into another and didn't say, "Excuse me," students have told the school's faculty and administrators.

The two students met later as classes changed around 10:30 a.m.

"Words were exchanged," said Ken Lawson, the associate superintendent for instruction and student services for county schools. "It started with name calling and escalated into a fight."

Eight to 10 other students -- friends of the two initial combatants -- joined in the fracas. Donald Gobbi, a librarian at the school, and art teacher John O'Neill moved in to break up the fights. Both were injured, Mr. Gobbi more severely as he was pushed to the ground and kicked and stomped, George Kispert, the Meade principal told reporters yesterday.

Mr. Gobbi was released from the Maryland Shock Trauma Center Friday night after being treated for possible spinal injuries.

He was at home yesterday, recuperating from his injuries, Mr. Kispert said.

"He has some bruises and swelling on his back," the principal said.

Nine boys from all four grade levels were suspended for five days while school officials conduct an investigation. Some of the students could be expelled, depending on the outcome of the investigation, Mr. Kispert said.

School officials are probing whether the students who stomped and kicked Mr. Gobbi did so intentionally or accidentally in the confusion.

In addition to the students fighting, a crowd of some 100 students had gathered around to watch the battle, Mr. Lawson said Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, county police continued their investigation. Officer Randy Bell, a police spokesman, said criminal charges may be filed against some of the students "within the next few days."

Meade "returned somewhat to a state of normalcy" yesterday, Mr. Kispert said, although he admitted that he spent most of his day talking to faculty and students about the incident.

He was scheduled to meet with parents last night.

Mr. Kispert downplayed earlier reports of racial conflicts at the school.

"I think there are some students who cannot distinguish how far loyalty can go," he said, referring to students who joined the fight to support friends. The school has a racially mixed population that is 45% black, 39% white, 9% Hispanic and 7% Asian.

Aisha Stroman, a 16-year-old junior, agreed with the principal.

"It wasn't a racial thing. It was a friend jumping in when he saw his friend getting beat up." she said.

Sara Salazar, 15, also denied the fight was racially motivated.

"I don't think it was a racial thing. It was an ignorance thing," the sophomore said.

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