10 students charged in brawl at Rich Central High School
BY CASEY TONER Sun-Times Media October 1, 2013 11:28PM
Rich Township High School's South Campus on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 | Casey Toner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 3, 2013 6:43AM
Ten students were charged with mob action — a felony — after a massive brawl broke out Monday afternoon at Rich South High School between students from that school and 1,400 students from Rich Central who were bused there after a bomb threat at their school, Richton Park Police said.
After the Central students arrived at the South school gym, someone pulled a fire alarm about 2:30 p.m., 5000 Sauk Trail, police said.
As the building was evacuated, three girls were injured when they were trampled. They were taken to a hospital. A Rich South teacher and a Richton Park police officer also were treated at a hospital for injuries.
The melee started when about 2,800 students from both schools were outside the school after it was evacuated, according to police.
They said it took about an hour to end the fighting among students, and police did not use stun guns or pepper spray to try to quell the brawl. The Central students were bused back to their school, and the South students were sent home, police said.
Of the 10 students facing mob action charges, only Crystal Gholson, 17, of Country Club Hills, was charged as an adult, police said. More arrests are possible after a review of video surveillance from the school, police said.
More than 30 Cook County sheriff’s police officers were called to break up the fighting, along with officers from Matteson, Park Forest and New Lenox.
“I was there, it looked like total chaos,” Richton Park Police Chief Elvia Williams said. “We got one fight under control, and another fight would break out.”
Police said they became aware that the Central students had been bused to South only when they were called about groups of students fighting each other on the South grounds.
Top district officials, including Supt. Doris Langon, denied that. She said they contacted police immediately after moving the students and were following an emergency plan they put together with local police chiefs this summer. The plan calls for students to be evacuated and sent to another school in the event of a credible bomb threat.
Rich Township High School District 227 Board President Cheryl Coleman said the trouble began when a student at Rich Central made some sort of bomb threat to a substitute teacher about 1 p.m.
Olympia Fields Police said they found a threatening note and an “unattended and accounted for box with wires protruding from it on the floor in one of the classrooms.” They said the sheriff’s police bomb squad arrived at Central, 3600 W. 203rd St., Olympia Fields, and determined that the device was not an explosive.
Coleman said the substitute teacher alerted Central administrators about the bomb threat. Williams said the district superintendent’s office decided that students would be bused to South.
“I would have advised the school against it,” Williams said. “When you get that many students together from different schools, you need to have certain controls in place. Those controls were not in place, and things got out of hand.”
School board member Emmanuel Imoukhuede said “whoever made that decision has no knowledge of safety of children and something needs to be done quickly. Such a person should not be responsible for taking care of the kids anymore.”
Board member Sheila Friday called the whole situation “ridiculous.”
“None of this would have happened if the students were never transported to Rich South,” Friday said. “We could have sent the [Central] kids home and got in touch with their parents and dealt with that consequence rather than putting them in a position where they could be harmed.”