Parkland High School was placed under lockdown on Monday as dozens of law enforcement officers responded to reports of a fight among students.
Christina Howell, a spokeswoman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, said all students and staff were safe following the 2 p.m. disturbance.
Students at the school were kept under lockdown until they were released to the care of their parents or guardians around 3:30 p.m.
Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough said the massive law enforcement response was meant to assure parents that their children would be safe, less than two weeks after a student was fatally shot at Mount Tabor High School.
“The system wanted to make sure they’re safe …and let them know we are trying to do everything we can to make sure their children are safe,” Kimbrough said, as he stood talking with parents at the front door of the school as the police presence began winding down.
In a Facebook post, the sheriff’s office said school resource officers first encountered students fighting in the school’s main hallways. While police officers and deputies responding to the school were separating students and checking to make sure no one was injured, a secondary fight broke out.
Brent Campbell, the chief communications officer for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said the fight began after a late lunch period as students were moving between the hallways and classes. He said police called for help and that pepper spray was used to de-escalate the fighting.
“Two students experienced effects from the spray, but I am told they are OK this evening,” Campbell said.
In the parking lot, a female sitting partially upright on a gurney could be seen being loaded onto an ambulance about 20 minutes after authorities responded. Campbell said no one was taken to the hospital as a result of the incident at the school.
Lashonda Shore, standing near the front door during the lockdown, said her ninth-grade son, Erich Gregory Jr., sent her a text from the gym, where he and other students had been taken.
“He texted me and said, ‘Mom, come get me,’ ” Shore said. “He said he just got pepper sprayed. They pepper sprayed in the hall, and he just walked into it.”
As Gregory and his mother talked on the phone a little later, the student could be heard saying said his throat was burning and that he didn’t know when he would be able to leave.
Kimbrough said Monday’s fight was not related to the seizure of a gun at Parkland on Wednesday. He also said it had nothing to do with the fatal shooting at Mount Tabor High School on Sept. 1.
Campbell said the students involved in the fighting had been identified.
“We will follow district disciplinary practices as appropriate,” Campbell said.
Dozens of police and sheriff’s office cruisers had massed on the parking lot of the high school after the disturbance was called in, as well as a fire truck and two ambulances.
As the lockdown unfolded, deputies and police officers gathered in front of the school doors and told arriving parents that the school was locked down and that they could not pick up their children at that time.
During the lockdown, parent Kenneth McBride approached the front door of the school and shouted at officers for several minutes, demanding that his son Damion be let out of the school. Officers explained that students were safer inside.
Later, McBride talked about his frustration over threatening school incidents.
“This stuff that has been going on in the schools – they need to get more security,” McBride said. “It almost wants to make me take my son out of this school. That’s my baby.”
Mercedez Bermudez showed up near the front door of the school after her daughter Cristy called her and told her there had been a fight.
“The kids are locked in the classrooms,” she said.
Even though there were no reports of a weapon in Monday’s fight at Parkland, the lockdown clearly had some parents on edge.
Parent Ross Lynch, referring to the Mount Tabor shooting, the finding of a gun at Parkland and Monday’s lockdown, said that as far as he’s concerned, “this is about like three strikes” against the schools.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “When I was a kid, if you got in a fight it was a fistfight.”
Lynch said that his son Ryder was in class when the lockdown began and didn’t see what had happened.
“He said the teacher went over and locked the door,” he said.
Charles Cash, waiting to pick up his daughter Tasari, said he had doubts about the size of the law enforcement response:
“I think it could be over-reacting, with all this stuff out here,” he said. “It is just a fight. And there’s nobody with the school out here telling you anything.”