A Minneapolis school today is recovering from a violent incident involving more than 200 of its students yesterday afternoon.
South High School posted a statement on its website regarding the “food fight” the school says escalated into an event in which “mace was used [by police] to break up the crowds of students” when “some students ignored requests to disperse.”
As a result of the incident, three students and two members of the staff were hospitalized for injury. Thirteen students were also evaluated on scene for complaints of effects of exposure to mace.
The day’s events began with a lesser dispute during the school’s first lunch period in the commons area. “We think just a couple of milk containers were thrown between two small groups of students,” Sgt. William Palmer of the Minneapolis Police Department told ABC News. This altercation was broken up by school staff.
“Unsubstantiated rumors may have spread about what caused the dispute during the first lunch period,” Palmer said, which possibly antagonized some students and led to the larger, more violent event that later transpired.
A crowd of “200-300″ students began pushing, shoving and throwing items that may have included garbage, food and bottles during the school’s third lunch period. The situation became “too unruly for school staff and the two on-campus school resource officers to handle,” Palmer said. Police were called and 10 officers responded.
When some students refused to disperse and instead began “pelting police” with items, according to Palmer, two officers utilized their personal cans of mace to “spray the area” and regain order. Palmer says police did not target any one student.
Guled Omar, a student who witnessed the scene, believes the violence may have had something to do with racial discrimination. He told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis that he and other Somali-American students at the school feel targeted.
“I don’t know if it’s because we’re minorities or the newest immigrant group,” Omar said.
When asked whether or not he believed racial discrimination played a part in the incident, Minneapolis Public Schools director of communication Stan Alleyne said he could not comment. “The school is safe,” he said.
The school will continue to operate under a “code yellow” security status “until further notice,” a spokesman from Alleyne’s office told ABC News. This will require students to remain in their classrooms during periods and limits access into and out of the building.
“We are thankful for the quick response of staff members and school resource officers who acted quickly and appropriately. In addition, we are thankful for the students who remained calm and responsive,” South High School posted on its website.
No arrests were made, with Palmer stating, ”The cause is under investigation.” Officials have begun interviewing staff and viewing the school’s security camera footage to assess possible charges.