A large number of law enforcement officers descended on Reynolds High School Thursday morning and the school was placed on lockdown amid reports of students fighting.
School officials said no students were fighting physically but that “a verbal disturbance” broke out between students during a morning class change.
“Our administrators were quick to remove the students yelling at one another,” said Trish McManus, the superintendent of schools.
The lockdown, which started around 10:30 a.m. at the school, was lifted at noon.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies and Winston-Salem police surrounded the school as it was on lockdown and let no one onto the property — including anxious parents who wanted to make sure their children were all right.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said that during the incident an adult came onto the campus in response to a phone call from a student. The adult was identified and escorted off campus, authorities said. Officials didn’t say why that parent was at the school.
Brent Campbell, a spokesman for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said that no students were injured and that school staff worked to calm the disruption while the school was under lockdown. The sheriff’s office said the lockdown allowed deputies to quickly regain order on campus, and that no charges were filed arising from the disturbance.
At one point some parents got into a confrontation with each other in front of the school entrance across from Angelo Street. One parent said an officer threatened to spray her with pepper spray.
It was the latest in a series of incidents that have included the shooting death of a student at Mount Tabor High School on Sept. 1, along with reports of fights and gun seizures at other schools, including Reynolds, since that time.
One parent, Natalie Spinosa, stood on the sidewalk on Hawthorne Road in front of the school Thursday and talked about how she had exchanged texts with her son, who was being kept along with other students in classrooms during the trouble.
“He just said there is fighting in the hall and that they are on lockdown,” Spinosa said.
David Yamane, who lives across from Reynolds, said it wasn’t unusual to see one police car drive up, but that “when the third, fourth and fifth car responded, we knew something big was going on.”
Yamane said he heard some students outside shouting, but also noticed other students who were not involved in the dispute strolling around the campus as though nothing exceptional was taking place.
More officers kept arriving, he said, and some began getting canisters of pepper spray out of their cruisers.
Parent Yana Hakim got into a verbal confrontation with some other parents who objected to her filming with her cellphone. Shouts among the parents filled the air, and a police officer could be seen shouting “Stand back!” as he held aloft what appeared to be a pepper-spray dispenser.
Hakim said she became emotional because she was thwarted in her effort to get her children out of the school. At one point, seeing Fortsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. out in front of the school, Hakim enlisted his help to fetch her sons, but Hakim was angered when Kimbrough came back without them. Although Kimbrough tried to explain that school officials were keeping everyone in class, Hakim was not calmed by his explanation.
Hakim told a Journal reporter that it has been “a hurtful year.”
“Since school started, it has been fights, it has been guns, and the school system tells us nothing until school is out,” she said. “There is a whole gang war going on from these different schools that’s taking place, and they have no idea because they are not looking at the internet like we are looking, as parents.”
Hakim said she’s not “one of these outburst parents,” but that “we need help, this community needs help … all the schools need help. Something more needs to be done, because this is not helping at this point.”
Kimbrough said he did not know whether Thursday’s incident was gang-related, but after Hakim berated him in front of the school for not getting her son out, Kimbrough acknowledged that “tensions are very high.”
“And I understand that,” Kimbrough said. “People want a lot. People want this, they want that. I’m trying to satisfy what they want to do. But we have to work within the system that we are given to work within.”
McManus said the lockdown was a case of taking “extra precautions.” It allowed the school to keep students safe while officials investigated the disturbance, she said.
“Thankfully, this did not escalate into a large-scale disturbance inside the school, but anytime you have a student disagreement while a class change is underway, you can never be too careful,” she said. “Understandably, the large law enforcement presence outside the school did alarm our parents and other students.”
McManus said that the school system “will always let parents know when there is an emergent situation impacting our students’ safety.”