By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – More than a dozen South Philadelphia High School students spent Thanksgiving on house arrest after being charged with assault and other crimes stemming from a huge lunchroom brawl earlier this month. The school was in the spotlight two years ago when dozens of Asian students alleged they were being bullied on campus. Some parents says the punishment does not fit the crime.
Police say the November 9th melee started with a dispute between two teenage boys and quickly escalated into a huge rumble involving 20 students. Over the past two weeks, investigators arrested and charged 17 boys, age 15 to 17, with disorderly conduct, simple assault and other crimes for their part in the fight that police say left two school police officers with minor injuries.
“My son was standing there as the fight was happening,” says Kearia Harrison, whose son Kenyon Peterson is a sophomore at South Philadelphia High School. “As he was standing there another student swung on him.”
Harrison says 15-year-old Kenyon was arrested and is currently on house arrest after getting booted from the basketball team. He was also slapped with a 10-day at-home suspension. She says the punishment is unfair.
“If he was in the wrong, he would have to deal with anything that comes his way,” she says. “But he wasn’t in the wrong; he was defending himself. I always tell my son to defend himself.”
Harrison says she is disappointed with the way the fight was handled.
“They wouldn’t let me talk to the principal, they wouldn’t let me talk to the assistant principal,” she says. “The only person they would let me talk to was the sergeant of the school police who explained the incident to me who told me all the kids involved would be suspended for 10 days and after that they would decide what to do with the kids — whether they kick them out.”
Harrison says, even though the fight was the first major violent incident she’s heard of at the school since her son began his freshman year Fall of 2011, she has lots of unanswered questions.
“Where was the security in the school? When did the school police get involved?,” she asked. “I feel horrible about this situation. I was scared for my son’s life. Anything could have happened.”
The Philadelphia School District did not respond to a request for comment.