Administrators attempt to clear up details of Hickman fight

Saturday, March 1, 2008 | 2:40 a.m. CST; updated 9:27 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — School officials attempted Friday to clear up what at first appeared to be discrepancies between a letter sent home by the Hickman High School principal and early police accounts of a disturbance at the school Tuesday.

Columbia police responded to an incident at the high school Tuesday after a fight had started outside and several students and adults had begun to become increasingly uncooperative inside the school’s main office.

Days after the fight had been quelled, there was still uncertainty about what happened. Hickman High School principal Michael Jeffers on Wednesday sent home a letter with students, which was posted on the school’s Web site, that stated there was no fight inside the building.

“We need to be careful with semantics,” Jeffers said. “People are getting hung up on semantics.”

This is what Jeffers said happened:

The argument began Monday, Feb. 25, at a Dairy Queen on Business Loop 70 East when a group of students and adults clashed over threats against the younger brother of one of the students. The student who was threatened attends a Columbia junior high school.

At about 11:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, the argument came to a head in front of the school on the north side of the building.

“There was a fight outside,” Jeffers said.

Five students from Hickman High School and Douglass High School, along with one adult who was not a student, were escorted inside.

Several of those escorted into the office tripped over boxes, and about 100 students crowded around the windows to watch what was going on inside the locked office, Jeffers said.

A student then picked up a small table, but was coaxed into putting it down. A faculty member restrained an unruly teen by pinning him to the ground. Tracey Conrad, one of the school’s four assistant principals, was shoved.

By the time the police arrived, nine faculty members, including all of the school’s assistant principals, had contained the six individuals.

In the meantime, school bells were sounded early to get students out of the commons area.

“After it all settled down, things got back to normal,” Jeffers said.

Three adults and four juveniles were arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace. Charges were upgraded against two of the juveniles to third-degree assault. Another juvenile was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a school administrator. One of the adults, who was not a student, was stunned outside the building, where the original fight occurred, with a Taser and taken into custody.

Police have named three of those arrested so far: John Wise, 17, of 2808 Mulberry Road, Apt. B; Anthony Robinson, 18, of 202 Mohawk Ave.; and Donald Coleman, 18, of 103 E. Forest Ave.

Jeffers sent home with students a letter in response to a television news report that said a fight had happened in the high school’s commons area.

Since the incident, additional police officers have patrolled restaurants surrounding the school during lunch and an extra officer has been placed at the school.

What the school considers a fight might not be the same as what police consider a fight.

“From the school’s perspective, when we classify a fight, we talk about physical contact blows,” Jeffers said of the skirmish inside the school’s main office.

Assistant Superintendent Lynn Barnett said it was unclear what started the fight in front of the high school. The punishment for the students involved could include detention or suspension, she said.

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Tom O'Sullivan March 2, 2008 | 2:43 p.m.

The fact is this incident occurred on the grounds of Hickman High School. Inside or outside, who cares? The number one problem with public schools is that any member of the "public" can attend them. Any type of abhorrent behavior found in society is for the most part tolerated in the Columbia Public Schools. Bars and nightclubs where police are frequently summoned for criminal activity are eventually put out of business. If the same standard were applied to the Columbia Public Schools they'd all be shut down! Maybe the solution to rowdy saloons is a taxpayer funded Bar Resource Officer!

Tom O'Sullivan
1407 Rosemary Lane

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