18 students arrested in fighting

Police tie brawls to neighborhood rivalry, step up patrols for Annapolis High football

September 08, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,sun reporter

Four fights over two days at Annapolis High School have resulted in the arrest of 18 students, Anne Arundel County police and school officials said yesterday.

The fistfights are being attributed to clashes among students who live in different neighborhoods, but Principal Don Lilley said he is confident that with the arrests and suspensions of the students, the clashes are over.

"We will have a very uneventful end of the school year," Lilley said. "I don't think it's going to continue."

The first fight broke out shortly after school started Wednesday at 7:30 a.m., said Lt. David Waltemeyer of the Anne Arundel County Police Department. The school resource officer radioed for assistance, and three students were arrested and charged with assault. The police sent two more officers to the school for the rest of the day, but the fighting continued, Waltemeyer said.

A second fight at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday resulted in three arrests on charges of disorderly conduct and a third fracas at 12:46 p.m. yielded assault charges for three more students.

Yesterday, a police sergeant and five officers helped patrol the school, but another fight broke out about 7:15 a.m. That time, nine students were arrested and charged with assault - two of them are adults and at least one of the students is a girl, Waltemeyer said.

Police or school officials did not release the names of the students involved. No one has been injured and no weapons were used in any of the altercations, but a pocketknife was found on one of the students after he was arrested, Waltemeyer said.

"It looks like they are fighting because they live in different neighborhoods," he said. Waltemeyer did not identify the neighborhoods; he did not know yesterday if any of the students were being held or if they had been released to their parents.

Lilley said he did not think that the students involved in the frays were gang members. He suspects that the fighting began as a disagreement between some students over the summer and spilled over into a fight on the first day of school. The tension had been escalating since, culminating in the incidents this week.

Lilley sent a letter home to parents yesterday, informing them of the situation and the heightened security at the school. In the letter, he says that classes were not disrupted.

Lilley has been principal of Annapolis High since March 2005, when he was brought in to replace Deborah Williams, whose tenure concluded with a wrongful-termination suit against the school system. Williams had placed an emphasis on school safety - angering some by requiring transparent backpacks to prevent weapons from being brought into school. Lilley did away with the transparent backpacks, but took other steps to promote school security. However, at a football game at the school in October last year, a Glen Burnie teen was charged with accidentally shooting a 17-year-old girl in the leg. Neither attended Annapolis High School.

This week's fights occurred mainly in the school's front lobby, and some teachers were not aware that the fights had occurred, Lilley said.

But for some students who saw the fights, they were the hot topic of the day.

"In English class, we were supposed to be working on projects, but everybody talked about it for an hour and a half," said Andrew Hosmer, 15.

Andrew and several of his friends, who were walking home from school yesterday, said they had heard others plotting more fights.

"It's getting worse and worse," Andrew said. "I don't think it will get any better."

Mac Baechtold, 15, said he suspected that school may be shut down early today if the rumors of more fights turn out to be true.

Still, the students said they feel safe at the high school, that the tension exists only among certain groups of students.

"I'm trying to stay out of the way," said Quentin Rayhart, also 15.

All of the boys said they plan to attend Annapolis High's home football game tonight.

Lilley said the game against Gwynn Park High School will go on, but more police than usual will be present.

"I'm not going to be naive that things can't happen," Lilley said.

Waltemeyer said that extra officers will be at the school through Monday, though Lilley said he does not think they will be needed beyond today. He said that the school staff and community will be working together to address the issues that led to the fights.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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