Binghamton High School Food Fight Escalates Into Violence:Leaves 2 School Officials and 2 Police Injured

BINGHAMTON -- Changes will be made at Binghamton High School following a melee Thursday between students, school officials and police -- an incident Superintendent Peggy J. Wozniak called "unacceptable behavior."Nine students were arrested, and four adults -- two assistant principals and two police officers -- were injured at the school when a food fight in the cafeteria escalated into a brawl outside the building.
The incident happened on the last full day of classes -- a day when seniors have traditionally have staged a run through the corridors of the high school as they throw Silly String and bang on lockers and blow air horns to celebrate the completion of their school careers. Although no seniors were involved in the incident with police, school district officials will be evaluating end-of the-year security procedures to make sure Thursday's disturbance doesn't repeat itself, Wozniak said.
"There will undoubtedly be changes," Wozniak said. "We don't want this to happen again."

While the senior run was not part of Thursday's problems, it will be part of the discussion, she said.
There were no reported injuries among students, but all four injured adults received treatment in the aftermath: Associate Principal Martin Klein was hit in the face with a cell phone; Assistant Principal Gerry Lynch wrenched his back; School Resource Officer Lisa Zikuski suffered a scratch on her arm; and Sgt. Donald Burke reportedly was punched.
Immediately after things calmed down, rumors were rampant. Many of them had the incident starting with the senior run.
However, Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski was quick to point out that wasn't the case and underscored this point: "There were no seniors involved."
"They had nothing to do with it," the chief said. "The seniors had their run and they left school. Probably by 9:30, they had left the school grounds. The ages of those arrested shows these weren't seniors."
According to police reports, in addition to four juveniles -- three females and one male -- those arrested were:
* Ryan Weathers, 17, assault in the second degree, a felony.
*Daquan Hooks, 17, disorderly conduct, a violation, and resisting arrest, a misdemeanor.
* Shaquille Espinal, 16, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
* Josh Martin, 16, disorderly conduct.
* Jamel Warren, 16, disorderly conduct.
Though police and school officials do not condone "senior prank day" or "senior run day," Zikuski said it's something they deal with at the end of every year and is usually "all in good fun." To be sure, Zikuski assigned two officers to the school on Thursday and had extra patrol cars near the school during lunch period.
"Every year we deal with this and nobody gets arrested," the chief said.
This year, when the seniors had left for the day, the tone changed.
According to Zikuski, this is what unfolded:
The incident started in the cafeteria with a food fight. School officials got those involved out into the courtyard.
In the courtyard, however, a fight broke out among students, and when an assistant principal (Klein) tried to intervene, a female student hit him in the face with a cellphone she was holding in her hand. Klein went down, and while others were coming to his aid, another scuffle broke out nearby.
At that point, a second assistant principal (Lynch) got knocked to the ground, and as police attempted to help, they found themselves getting punched in the back and in the head.
"There were well over 100 kids with a mob mentality at that point," Zikuski said. "They were out of control and (school officials and police) were well outnumbered. That's when they put out a call for help."
Scanner traffic around that time directed all available police to the scene, and though no actual numbers are available, officers from the Broome County Sheriff's Department, state police, Binghamton, Vestal and Johnson City quickly arrived on the scene.
"Once they got there, it took about a half-hour to disperse the crowd," Zikuski said. "But I truly believe the show of force prevented some serious injuries."

he nine students were arrested on the spot.
Even with that situation under control, students still in the building were told to remain there; those already outside were instructed to disperse and were not allowed back inside. Binghamton High has an open lunch period that allows students outside of the building during that time.
Away from the school, Zikuski said pockets of people were gathering on corners or in parking lots, but police, some with dogs, were able to move them along.
Additionally, Zikuski said police were checking information that there might have been some outside influences at work trying to start an altercation.
Eye witnesses to the melee described a wild scene that involved some 100 students, some fighting, and some watching.
"It looked like one of those old riot movies. It was crazy. It was just like people fighting cops, people screaming and stuff," said J.J. Jones, a student at the school.
Gary Lind, an adult who works across the street, said the events started as a regular fistfight inside the gate on the Main Street side of the building and escalated.
 "More kids started throwing food at the cops, and they started fighting with the cops. That's all that I saw," Lind said.
Other students described students put in handcuffs after swinging at school officials, and students being tackled to the ground by officials.
"There was a huge group of people, and the cops were going in and arresting everybody," said Gianna Sindon, a student at the school.
School officials felt they had adequate security at the high school Thursday to deal with the end-of-the-year celebration, Wozniak said.
Extra administrators were at the school, and officials searched students bags at they entered the building in the morning, she said.
"I'm very disappointed with what happened," Wozniak said, noting the school recently held its prom and post-prom with no problems.
There had been no serious problems at the high school this school year until Thursday, she said.
While not prejudging possible changes, Wozniak said actions will have to be taken to avoid a repeat.
Board President David Hawley said the district will need to do an investigation.
Zikuski, the police chief, agreed that Thursday's events were disappointing.
"A small group of bad apples ruined it for everybody," he said.
By George

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