CAMBRIDGE – A series of physical confrontations in the Cambridge-South Dorchester High School lunchroom on March 1 resulted in several arrests. Lt. Justin Todd of the Cambridge Police Department said CPD officers arrested six students, who were charged with disturbing school activities, disorderly conduct and failure to obey.
“One was charged with assaulting a teacher and all but two were charged with resisting arrest,” Lt. Todd said in a statement to The Dorchester Banner. Sheriff’s deputies also reportedly made several arrests.
A Friday press release from Dorchester County Public Schools said, “On March 1, 2018, at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School, there was a physical altercation which caused a disruption in the school day. This situation is being investigated by the school’s administration and local law enforcement. Cambridge-South Dorchester High School is committed to ensuring the safety of our students and staff. We will continue to investigate the incident in conjunction with the DCPS County Student Code of Conduct in collaboration with local law enforcement.”
As the situation escalated on Thursday, students video recorded the events. One, saying it is of the first fight, shows two boys pulling their shirts off, beginning to swing at each other, and then tangling on the floor with adults trying to separate them.
When order was not restored, officers from the CPD and the Dorchester Sheriff’s Office were summoned by school administrators. Another video posted on social media showing students being restrained and arrested had nearly 71,000 views by Monday afternoon.
Videos and eyewitness accounts confirm that dozens of students were still present in the lunchroom while many police officers, teachers and administrators tried to clear the area.
Some of the students can be seen confronting the police and educators, while others shout at them. Repeated instructions to return to class were initially ignored by many of the students.
On Friday, increased law enforcement presence was evident at the school, with CPD officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers stationed there.
Thursday’s incident provoked immediate outrage, as some students and members of the community criticized the police for bringing students to the floor as they were arrested. Other students, teachers and parents voiced their frustration with a system seemingly unable or unwilling to discipline unruly and disrespectful students.
While staffing and the school’s response to last week’s events have been topics of conversation in Dorchester, students’ wellbeing this week has also been a matter of concern. Some parents have decided to keep their children at home, and a group met Monday morning at the C-SD flagpole to pray for calm and safety.
Beth Kienast is a mother of local public school students. In a written statement, she said, “Until you can guarantee my children’s safety at our schools, my kids will stay home. If you honestly care about the welfare of our children then prove it. Remove the superintendent and her cronies for failure to fulfill her contractual obligations. Allow the administrators to be administrators and enforce the current policies and procedures. Stop blaming a great principal and allow him to do his job. Encourage law enforcement to be in our schools instead of blaming them for doing their jobs. We as parents are fed up with asking for change and are now demanding it.”
Widespread support was heard over the weekend for retaining C-SD Principal Dave Bromwell, as petitions backing him have been circulating online.
President of the county’s Board of Education Glenn Bramble said in a statement, “Personnel will remain unchanged at the present time.”
The Dorchester Banner contacted Dr. Mitchell by email over the weekend and was told she was out of town on a personal matter until Tuesday. The Banner asked the following questions in writing, which Dr. Mitchell answered by email.
1) What are your plans for making county schools safer? Will there be stricter consequences for disrespectful or disruptive students?
Dr. Mitchell responded, “Central Office will continue to collaborate and communicate with school administrators and our partners in the local police and the sheriff’s department to ensure the safety of everyone. We will continue to follow and enforce the DCPS Student Code of Conduct as outlined in our annual district calendar, which is distributed to all families. It outlines expected student behavior, general guidelines, behavior-related offenses, and consequences.”
2) Do you support C-SD staff’s calling for police assistance during the disturbance last week?
Dr. Mitchell responded, “Yes, we fully support our administrators’ decision to contact the local authorities to ensure the safety of everyone.”
3) Is Mr. Bromwell’s job in jeopardy as a result of last week’s events?
Dr. Mitchell responded, “No, Mr. Bromwell’s job is not in jeopary as a result of last week’s events. The behavior of the students involved in this incident was completely unacceptable, and the response of the C-SD staff and administrators, led by Mr. Bromwell, was completely appropriate.”
4) Did you want to remove resource officers from the school at the beginning of the academic year? If so, why?
Dr. Mitchell responded, “Not at all. We value both of our School Resource Offices. I have never stated anything regarding the removal of safety resources from the school. It is regrettable that this rumor has been circulating for a while, fed by social media.”
Student Chyna Wongus said in a written statement, “I am the senior class vice president. My classmates and I have two more months left. This isn’t how we should remember C-SD.”
A meeting of the Board of Education was scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., after the deadline for this edition of The Banner. Check www.dorchesterbanner.com today for a report on the meeting.