By Catharin Shepard • Editor • Two Hoke County High School staff members went to the hospital Monday, one with a laceration to the forehead and the other for back issues, after breaking up fights on the high school campus.
Two teachers were also checked out for “cuts and abrasions,” and two safety monitors had their eyes flushed out due to pepper spray from a sheriff’s deputy, according to the school district. Several students also needed to have their eyes flushed due to pepper spray.
The two fights broke out between Hoke High students during the first day back to class after the weekend. One fight apparently began in a bathroom, and another started outside of the high school media center, according to reports. The fights did not involve weapons.
Videos of the fights, captured by student bystanders on their cell phones, showed Hoke High staff members physically intervening to stop the fights in both cases. One staff member was shown falling to the ground outside the Baucom building as a sheriff’s deputy student resource officer (SRO) and others continued to try and break up the fight, which spilled out into the parking lot in front of the building.
The fights were apparently related to a situation that began off-campus over the weekend, Hoke County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Rodney Shotwell said in an email Monday afternoon.
“It was a carryover from something that happened over the weekend between two groups of boys. This is why we need parents to alert the school of situations like this so the staff can be proactive,” Shotwell wrote.
Nine students in total were involved in the fights, according to the interim superintendent. After collecting statements from them, all of the students were removed from campus. The matter was turned over to law enforcement.
The fights prompted administrators to put the school into a “soft lockdown.”
“We had soft lockdown, which meant any student needing to go to the bathroom would be allowed with a teacher supervision for anything in the hallway and they make sure the student returns. A regular lockdown means no one leaves their location and everyone is locked in until it is safe to lift the lockdown,” Shotwell said in an email.
The interim superintendent said the district could not discuss disciplinary actions given to specific students, “However, fights are taken very seriously by (Hoke High Principal) Dr. (Thomas) Benson and the rest of the Hoke County Schools community. The appropriate punishment is given to help deter this from happening again.”
“We want to thank the staff and students for being proactive and not exacerbating the situation,” Shotwell said.
The school district said in a message to parents, “Several students were involved in a fight on campus. Administration, staff and SROs responded and broke up the fight quickly. While intervening to stop the fight, two of our staff members sustained minor injuries and as a precaution, were taken by EMS to the hospital. Administration along with Hoke County law enforcement is investigating the incident and appropriate disciplinary and possible legal action will be taken.”
The school had extra law enforcement officers on campus for the rest of the day. The fights happened about a week after a student was caught bringing a weapon onto the Hoke High campus. In that situation, the student was apprehended and no one was injured