Fight Between Students at Wheeling Park High School Deemed ‘Racially Motivated’

Photo by Scott McCloskey Multiple Wheeling Police Department and Ohio County Sheriff’s Office cruisers respond to Wheeling Park High School Friday to what Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones termed a “racially motivated” fight at the school.

WHEELING — Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones promised Friday that school officials are going to get “a lot more serious, a lot faster” in punishing students associated with racially motivated conflicts in the schools.

Jones’ comments came after school resource officers broke up a fight Friday at lunchtime between two female students at Wheeling Park High School.

“We had a physical fight during lunch, and it was racially motivated,” Jones said. “It started from social media posts … and it led to a fight between two female students. As you would expect, there was a chaotic experience at the school.”

It is believed the fight is connected to racial tension at the school that resulted in extra resource officers from other school buildings being called to WPHS earlier this week.

A number of videos posted on social media show the Friday fight occurring between two females, with a large number of students present around them. WPHS Assistant Principal Kenneth Sexton is seen placing himself into the middle of the fray before the officers arrived.

“The videos don’t help anything, but they are out there,” Jones said.

Prior to the altercation Friday, there had been no physical fighting between students — just tension, according to Jones. Earlier this week, social media posts made reference to someone possibly bringing a gun to the school, as well as reports of racial tension among students. One post suggested there are two “teams” at WPHS — “team hick” and “team black” — and students are being asked to take sides.

Jones said he and other school officials spent Thursday night meeting with members of the NAACP, and representatives of that group were at WPHS Friday. Concerned parents also came to the school, according to Jones.

“We spent the afternoon talking to anyone who wanted to talk,” he said.

This weekend school officials will sit down and develop a strategy for disciplining students who become involved in the racially motivated incidents.

“We will be talking with prosecutors, and we will be more likely to press charges against kids who get in altercations,” Jones said. “We’re not going to tolerate it.

“Some may be sent to alternative school immediately for anything like this,” he added. “If we have to make more room, we will do it.”

Students in class Friday at the time of the fight reported being kept in their classrooms for an extra 15 minutes as officers dealt with the situation. After the incident, a total of seven police cruisers were seen parked outside the school –three from the Wheeling Police Department and four from the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office

There are presently five resource officers on duty at the school, according to district Communications Coordinator Gabe Wells. Typically, there are two officers assigned to WPHS.

Jones said he could not publicly comment on how the students involved in the fight Friday will be disciplined.

“We do have an obligation and responsibility to keep kids safe,” he said.

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