After another fight, community grapples with how to stop school violence

NOW: After another fight, community grapples with how to stop school violence

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- After the championship girls basketball game between Navarre Middle School and Dickinson Fine Arts Academy Thursday night, fights broke out, and police were called to intervene.

This comes just a few weeks after a basketball game was interrupted by all-out brawls during half-time at the Washington versus Riley boys basketball game.

"It had nothing to do with basketball," said 2nd district South Bend Common Councilmember Henry Davis Jr. "And that's the misnomer of all this. It had nothing to do with basketball."

After Dickinson won the championship game Thursday night against Navarre, Davis, who was in attendance, witnessed all the commotion.

"There was this mass of a confusion," he said. "One fight led to another led to another led to another. It was so much that it consumed everyone that was in the gym, including security and then police."

Another instance of violence where students and others in the crowd were brawling in South Bend schools.

"They are reacting to their environment. We can't say that our kids are bad," said Davis, whose district covers Navarre. "The environment is supporting the behavior they're currently experiencing… Our schools are being closed, our neighborhoods are being shut down, the tax base is moving out."

And South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski responded to the scene, saying all but two police squad cars arrived to assist.

"The excuses and the downplaying of these events are atrocious. I was right in the middle of this," he said. "The disrespect, the violence that was happening, not just to other human beings, but to police officers as human beings as well, this has simply got to stop."

It comes just weeks after police were called to another fight at Washington High School, during a basketball game, that led to multiple arrests.

"This was more elevated than Washington High School," Ruszkowski said.

And parents are left frustrated, like Angel McCall, who saw the commotion as she drove home from work.

"It's got to stop," she said. "I mean, it affects a lot of kids. Even the kids that aren't even involved in the situation. It messes with their health, their mentality, their train of thought. Like, what's going on, can it happen to them, what could happen if they were there?"

McCall says the fighting isn't her only concern.

"I had problems the whole year since she's been there," she said. "They really have bad bullying, my daughter was in bullying a lot.

And Davis said the violence is taking away from what should be considered a celebration of South Bend's female student athletes.

"Dickinson won the city championship," Davis said. "Those young ladies played a very good game, along with the folks at Navarre. Both teams played a wonderful game."

One adult was arrested last night and one juvenile was detained in connection to the fight at Navarre.

ABC57 reached out to all school board members, who have yet to respond.

But in a joint statement, the South Bend police, community school corporation, and Empowerment Zone released the following:

The ongoing conflicts and physical altercations from spectators at our school athletic events is unacceptable. On Thursday evening, an incident between students attending the Navarre Middle School vs. Dickinson Fine Arts Academy girls' basketball competition escalated and required the intervention of local law enforcement and school administrators. One student and one parent were taken into custody.

This afternoon, South Bend Empowerment Zone Chief Dr. Davion Lewis, South Bend Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings, South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski, and Division Chief and incoming SBCSC Security and Preparedness Director Eric Crittendon met to strategize ways to eliminate fighting at our athletics events and to ensure the safety of our students and staff.

Since the Washington/Riley incident, SBCSC implemented additional safety measures, including additional security guards, prohibiting backpacks, and ensuring that all tickets purchased for high school athletic events be done so online ahead of the event. The incidents at Thursday’s competition are being investigated, as are all security and admittance procedures at the middle school level.

The District and Zone intend to introduce new restrictions accordingly. Disruptive behavior is prohibited and any individuals taking part in such will be removed.

Thank you to the South Bend Police Department and our school staff for acting swiftly to ensure the safety of our students and spectators. As always, remember that information may be reported via our QuickTip portal or by calling Michiana Crime Stoppers at 574-288-STOP.

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