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Felony charges are too tough of a penalty for teens in suburban brawl: Mitchell

Updated: November 4, 2013 12:20PM



Teens from rival schools have been brawling since the days I went to Dunbar High School in the 1960s.

I can still see the disgusted look on Miss Dorothy Dawson’s face when she had to address an assembly after many of us acted like fools at a football game.

My friends and I were out of control. Although no actual fist fights broke out, students at the rival school were threatened and pushed around.

By the time teachers hustled us back onto the buses, we had succeeded in disgracing our school and ourselves.

The next day, Miss Dawson, a gym teacher, gave us a verbal lashing, and we were banned from attending games for the rest of the season.

Thankfully, just as the desire to be in a clique passes, so does the need to brawl over something as trivial as school rivalry. It’s called growing up.

That’s one reason why I am dismayed that the Richton Park Police Department couldn’t come up with something more creative than charging 10 students at Rich Central and Rich South with “felony mob action,” in connection with Monday’s school fight.

Police Chief Elvia Williams said she is charging the teens with felonies because they put “others in danger” and because of the “number individuals that participated in the fight.”

It took police officers from Matteson, Park Forest and New Lenox, as well as 30 Cook County sheriff’s police officers to break up the fighting.

“Even though no weapons were used, it could be just as dangerous. An officer, a teacher and three students were injured,” Williams told me.

Even more astonishing, most of the students who were arrested and charged were girls.

The trouble began when school officials decided to bus 1,400 students from Rich Central to Rich South after a bomb threat. After the Rich Central students arrived at the gym, however, someone pulled the fire alarm. Three girls were trampled during the evacuation of the gym and several fights broke out.

“It is really surprising that most of the involved persons were girls,” Williams said. “Not sure what is going on with that. Maybe, it is changing demographics and a change in what is considered acceptable behavior.”

Amazingly enough, four other girls from the two high schools went to another girl’s home in Richton Park the day after the ruckus and tried to pick a fight. Those teens have been charged with a misdemeanor.

Obviously the teens involved in the brawl should be punished, but not with felony mob action.

How about bringing these teens together and making them do community service?

How about trying to get to the bottom of why so many teenage girls are acting like thugs?

Unfortunately, girl fights are the latest trend not just in our area but also across the country.

Last week, a 54-year-old security guard at Thornwood High School collapsed and died after he tried to stop a fight between two girls in the hallway.

Also last week, it took security officers using pepper spray to break up fights between girls at Baltimore’s Patterson High School.

Before anyone says this is only a problem at urban high schools, about 15 girls were videotaped fighting at — of all places — the Dodge County Fair in Beaver Dam, Wis., in August.

The teens were seen punching, kicking and pulling hair as a crowd watched, TV news channel TMJ 4 reported.

Last school year, fights between girls also broke out at both Proviso West and Proviso East high schools in the western suburbs.

Apparently teenage girls are watching too many episodes of Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club.”

On this program, the most threatening and foul-mouthed females are the most popular with viewers. The women on the show treat an act of violence like it is normal.

What the girls arrested in this melee will see is that a violent outburst could ruin a person’s life.

Given the chaos at Rich South, it was obviously easier to arrest the combatants who refused to stop fighting than it was to figure out who was at fault.

The bad girls at Rich Central and Rich South need someone like Miss Dawson to put them in check.

Email: marym@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST



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