by Rick Palsgrove, Columbus Messenger
News Story – Honorable Mention
Two fights erupted at Groveport Madison High School on Oct. 29 resulting in the school being placed on lockdown for part of the day.
According to Groveport Madison Communications & Community Relations Director Jeff Warner, one fight happened around 9 a.m. and the other occurred around 11 a.m.
“It’s our understanding there had been a Halloween party over the weekend in which an issue developed between some of those attending the party,” said Warner.
Groveport Police Chief Ralph Portier described the disturbances as “a large fight.”
“A large group of students were involved, but the actual number of those fighting appears to be six to eight,” said Portier, who confirmed the fighting stemmed from a Halloween party held somewhere in Columbus over the past weekend.
“There were less than a dozen students directly involved, but the incidents happened during class changes, in the building’s rotunda,” said Warner. “There were several hundred students in close proximity to the fights. Many students were pushing, shouting and encouraging the misbehavior.”
When asked how long the fighting lasted, Warner said it was fairly brief, but he didn’t have an exact length of time it lasted.
Portier said two 15-year-olds will likely be charged with disorderly conduct/fighting through the Franklin County Juvenile Court. He said Groveport Madison school administration will deal with any internal discipline.
Warner said the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act prevents the district from releasing specific disciplinary consequences for any given student. However, the high school will pursue the most serious consequences permitted under board of education policy.
“There was also a rumor being quickly spread that a gun was on the school grounds, but searches by the school and police did not substantiate that rumor,” said Portier.
In a letter to Groveport Madison parents and staff, Superintendent Garilee Ogden wrote that, after the first incident, a rumor surfaced there was a gun on the school’s property.
“The building was immediately placed on a Level 2 Lockdown, where no class changes take place, nor may anyone enter or leave the building,” wrote Ogden. “As part of the investigation into the rumor of a weapon, we interviewed more than 50 students, and Groveport Police and district staff conducted a thorough search of the building. There was no evidence found that a weapon was ever on school property.”
Warner said school staff and administrators intervened to break up the fights. Additional support came from the police.
Groveport Police responded to assist the School Resource Officer. Additional police units from Obetz, Madison Township, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office also responded.
Portier said officers remained at or near the school throughout the day and will continue to monitor the school. He said the incident remains an ongoing investigation.
Warner said the students involved in the fights were all Groveport Madison students and that, to his knowledge, there were no serious injuries. He also said there was no damage to the new high school building.
When asked what will be done to prevent future fights, Warner said, “We met with the staff after school yesterday. We will have more staff in hallways and common areas to supervise class changes. We are also trying to work with students to help them solve conflicts in a more productive way.”
In her letter, Ogden stated district officials take the safety of the students and staff “very seriously.”
“We will not tolerate behavior that causes a disruption or has the potential to cause harm or injury,” wrote Ogden. “Students directly involved in any such incident will face severe disciplinary consequences. In addition, Groveport Police arrested students who were directly involved in the fights.”
Ogden said the second half of the day concluded without incident.
“However, as an added level of precaution, we will have additional administrative staff and police support on campus for the next several days,” wrote Ogden. “We are aware of several social media posts that show the two fights. It is important to keep in mind that of the 1,800 students at Groveport Madison High School, 98 percent of them behaved just as they are expected, and they are just as frustrated with today’s incidents as the rest of us.”