NHS

Police responded to five fights at Newark High School on Wednesday.

Five fights broke out at Newark High School throughout the day Wednesday, requiring a “large presence” of police officers to restore order and ensure safety of the school, officials said.

At least 14 students were involved in the fighting, said Lt. Andrew Rubin, a spokesman for the Newark Police Department, who noted that police are still investigating and trying to identify if more students were involved.

One student had to taken to the hospital, and another was arrested, Rubin said.

The fracas began around 9:30 a.m. when three male students began attacking another male student. Cpl. Andrew Pagnotti, the school resource officer, was able to break up the fight with the help of school employees, Rubin said.

The injured victim was taken to the hospital by his parent and was later released after treatment.

Two hours later, another fight broke out. Pagnotti “called for additional assistance as the suspects from the first fight attempted to access the area where this fight was occurring,” and a half dozen police officers arrived to help restore order, Rubin said.

Throughout the day, three more fights happened in various locations of the school.

In one incident, a 14-year-old female student was arrested for offensive touching of a school employee, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

"The suspect was involved in a fight with another female student," Rubin said. "When school employees attempted to separate the two, the suspect struck the school employee on his face, several times, with her hands. She then resisted arrest by the officer at the scene."

The student was released to a family member pending a court appearance.

Alva Mobley, a spokeswoman for the Christina School District, said the school wasn't fully locked down but was put on "soft alert," meaning that student movement throughout the school was restricted but classes continued.

“A large presence from Newark Police was required for the remainder of the day to ensure the safety of the school,” Rubin said, adding that, despite rumors, no weapons were involved in any of the fights.

Police maintained an increased presence at the school Thursday, he said.

Mobley said no students have been suspended. Administrators and police are still investigating the fights, and any necessary discipline will be determined once the investigation is complete.

The incidents come just a few weeks after Newark Police Department leaders warned that increasing demands on the school resource officer (SRO) has limited his ability to work on proactive, preventative measures to reach out to students before incidents occur.

“The SRO has realized a significant reduction in student interaction as it relates to the mediation and teaching roles due to the needs at NHS,” Chief Paul Tiernan and other police brass wrote in a Jan. 31 memo to city council. “In fact, the SRO has had to sharply reduce the amount of proactive patrols, even at NHS. Opportunities to correct and redirect the behavior of students at risk at other schools are being lost daily.”

The department has long had an SRO that is primarily stationed at Newark High, but that officer also spends time at and handles incidents at all the other schools in Newark, including Downes Elementary, West Park Place Elementary and Newark Charter School’s three buildings.

Tiernan said that the growth of Newark Charter and increasing needs at the Christina School District schools means that there are school policing needs that exceed the capacities of one SRO.

NPD had been considering a plan to hire an additional SRO to be stationed at Newark Charter School, but Tiernan said Thursday evening that those plans have been abandoned because the school could not commit to helping fund the officer's salary.

Instead, NPD is exploring adding a second SRO at Newark High, but no final decision has been made, Tiernan said.

Under the department's existing agreement with the Christina School District, the district pays for 60 percent of the officer's compensation and vehicle costs.

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