Students to learn their fates Some in brawl may be expelled

October 09, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

Students involved in a brawl Sept. 30 at Meade High School that sent a librarian, teacher and five students to the hospital will find out tomorrow whether they get to stay in school, according to Principal George Kispert.

"There may be some expulsions, depending on the extent of involvement," Mr. Kispert said last week.

Parents and students are to meet at 7 p.m. tomorrow with Mr. Kispert to learn the results of a police investigation. A second community meeting, at an undetermined site, is scheduled for Oct. 17, he said.

"But we'll begin having conferences with the students involved on Monday," Mr. Kispert said.

Librarian Donald Gobbi and John O'Neill, an art teacher, were both injured, Mr. Gobbi more severely, trying to break up the fight. Mr. Gobbi was resting at home last week as doctors waited for swelling to go down so they could determine the extent of his injuries. Mr. Kispert said he did not know when Mr. Gobbi would return to work.

Seventeen students had been given five-day suspensions as of Friday, the maximum number of days a principal can suspend a student. None had been arrested.

More serious disciplinary measures, such as longer suspensions expulsion, require the approval of school Superintendent Carol S. Parham.

Anne Arundel County police Sgt. Bob Johnson said Friday that some students could be arrested or given juvenile citations, depending on the results of the investigation, which he expects to conclude today.

In part, the probe has focused on whether Mr. Gobbi was beaten intentionally or accidentally in the confusion.

Initial reports that a racial slur started the fight have not been proved, Mr. Kispert said. Instead, he said, the fight began after one student bumped another in the hallway before class, but didn't say, "Excuse me."

The fight started after the next class.

"Instead of reacting positively, they got into the name calling very quickly, words were exchanged, and, I'm assuming, profanities, and from there it was just downhill," Mr. Kispert said.

Eight to 10 friends of the students joined the fracas, which occurred near some lockers, and several teachers intervened while about 100 students gathered to watch.

Although school officials said the fight was not racially motivated, Meade High has suffered racial tensions in the past. County police were called to the school May 1, 1992, when nearly 100 students refused to leave after Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King.

Last week, school administrators were trying to decide why something so minor as a bump in a hall would trigger such a fight.

Huntley Cross, the special assistant to the superintendent for student discipline matters, said Friday that he did not know whether the students who fought met deliberately or accidentally in the hall.

"Having been a former principal, I know that kids usually travel with friends, and peer pressure fuels it, and one guy postures and the next thing you know you have a brawl," Mr. Cross said. "But more than that, I think this is related to the violence that is everywhere, and it's as much about violence as anything else."

Mr. Kispert noted that students found another way to handle their differences when he was a youth. They waited until after school and fought off school property. And no one talked about the fights.

"Now, not all, but many, students are used to hearing inappropriate language around them, whether it's profanity or put-downs or name calling," Mr. Kispert said. "I think that what happens is that whether or not they want to be, they are put on the defensive, and constantly feel they have to defend their name, their family's name, their community's name, whatever."

Meade High administrators and teachers have an opportunity to turn the aftermath of the fight into a positive experience, he said.

"We're the people who set the parameters of appropriate control and conduct, and we have to get that idea and message across," Mr. Kispert said.

"For instance, behavior that goes on at a concert, isn't the same as what should go on in an assembly when somebody's making a presentation. We can use this to make active, instructional strides.

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