Cafeteria brawl inside Benton Harbor HS triggers police response

NOW: Cafeteria brawl inside Benton Harbor HS triggers police response

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Two videos obtained by ABC57 News show a huge fight breaking out, and little intervention by adults, in the cafeteria of Benton Harbor High School on Wednesday.

The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety confirmed on Thursday that it responded to the fight alongside the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.

Police said there were no serious injuries and no arrests made, “yet.”

The first video begins by showing a group of students gathering in a corner of the cafeteria before scattering after someone apparently throws something.

A liquid sits spilled around overturned chairs.

The group of students comes together again before running in different directions.

Then, complete chaos unfolds.

There are students punching each other, pushing, and throwing items.

The fighting then shifts to a different part of the cafeteria and continues to escalate.

Several students pile on top of each other.

One boy is seen repeatedly punching his classmate in the face, eventually knocking him over.

Some students are seen trying to break the fight up, including some who stop a classmate from throwing a chair.

But seconds later, more punches are thrown.

The one consistency in the videos appears to be no adults stepping in.

Violence has been discussed often in the Benton Harbor Area Schools District after a video of another fight in December received a lot of attention.

The district has been attempting to upgrade security measures, in part thanks to funding from a $2 million safety and gang prevention grant, but details of any progress are slim.

The second video shows the fight spilling out into a hallway and up a stairwell.

Benton Harbor Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson declined a request for an interview on Thursday about the fight.

She instead sent ABC57 the following statement by Marletta Seats, the school board president:

“Earlier today, the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education became aware of a student fight that occurred at Benton Harbor High School. Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson will designate school officials to investigate the fight and the school officials will follow all board policies during the investigation. The District will also work collaboratively with law enforcement officials.

“While this matter is pending, the Board want to assure all Benton Harbor residents that the number one priority of Benton Harbor Area Schools is to keep students safe. The Board also encourages all students, staff members and community members to report any potential harm or criminal acts directed towards students to the District administration.

“The Board will continue to work with its partners to ensure that students have the opportunity to safely pursue their educational goals. It is our belief that each child in our school buildings deserves a safe learning environment and the Board will take all necessary steps to protect our students.”

ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz sent Robinson several follow-up questions about school security and the response to the fight.

Robinson said that the Benton Harbor area schools do not all have resource officers.

She noted that the case is still being investigated so they have no comment on how long the fight lasted or if school officials intervened to the fighting.

Robinson told ABC 57's Taylor Popielarz that there were no injuries or arrests, but 15 students are recieving consequences that are determined by the code of conduct.

When asked about the safety measures that the school will take to ensure a fight to this degree will not happen again, the Interim Superintendent provided this statement:
Today, we have had police presence and that will continue as needed. More security has been assigned to the the cafeteria during the lunch hours. There has been a review of the PBIS expectations for the building by all students. Reminders were announced today prior to the beginning of each lunch period and this will continue daily. There will be a district wide message sent to all students reminding them of behavior expectations.

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