MINNEAPOLIS - Minneapolis South High School will be in session Friday, the day after police used chemical spray to break up a brawl involving hundreds of students.
Rachel Hicks says the school will be implementing a "safety plan to ensure a safe environment for learning." This comes after a food fight in the school's lunch area escalated into a physical fight involving dozens of students.
Minneapolis Police Sgt. William Palmer says two school liason officers and more than twenty staff members tried to break up the fight, but it was more than they could handle.
Dozens of police officers were called in to help. When they arrived, Palmer says they sprayed mace into the air to disperse the crowd. Palmer says mace was not directly sprayed at any students.
The spokesperson for the Hennepin County EMS says five people, including three students and two staff members, were transported to local hospitals for treatment. One staff member was reportedly hit in the head with an object thrown by a student. Fifteen more people were evaluated at the scene by paramedics.
Students described Thursday's chaotic scene.
"It was a stampede, people running away from the fight, people running towards it," said Khalali Johnson, a junior at the school.
Parents who got word from their children via text messages about the incident raced to the scene.
"There are teachers walking around freshly bandaged, people with ice packs on their faces. I mean its chaos," said Tiffany Glasper who says she was let in the school to get her child.
"I've been here 19 years I can't recall anything like this," said Sergeant Bill Palmer with the Minneapolis Police Department.
At a news conference, Minneapolis Police and schools detailed what started as a food fight, but ended in what witnesses call a riot over lunchtime in the commons area.
"At the height of the incident, we had two to three hundred students involved actively in altercations," said Palmer.
Police were called to the scene after staff members were unable to control the situation.
"As the fighting was continuing, the officers were being pelted with items," he said.
That's when two officers shot mace in the air, which broke up the fight, he said.
The amount of people taken to the hospital is in dispute.
Police said 4 people, including students and teachers were taken by ambulance to the hospital. Hennepin County Medical Center said 5. Police say the injuries were minor, with one staff member getting hit in the head with something.
"Is this school in a situation where we expect fights and activity like this, absolutely not. This is unusual," said Stan Alleyne, Minneapolis Public Schools spokesperson.
Yet students claim this brawl was more than just a food fight, telling KARE 11 racial tensions have been boiling between Somali and African-American students for some time.
"It's been a problem all year and they decided they were just going to go off," said Symone Glasper, a sophomore student.
"This is the biggest one. Throughout the year there have been a lot of fights," added Junior, Adnan Farah.
School officials could not confirm those claims, but reiterated this was an unusual situation.
Again, classes will resume Friday with extra police and staff on hand to make sure it goes smoothly.
"It's sad. If it's not safe here, should I have home schooled? I don't get it," said parent Felice Johnson.
Minneapolis Police and the school district will continue to investigate the situation. They say it is possible the students involved could face criminal charges.
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