A fight Tuesday between two female Little Rock high school students that grew into a melee that left several wounded by gunshots prompted sometimes tense group e-mail communications yesterday among Little Rock School Board members. The fight occurred in Boyle Park about 3 p.m. on what was apparently, at least for some, a "Senior Skip Day." (Maybe Skip Day, an old tradition, needs to be discouraged. It is officially unofficially held toward the end of the school year, as one commenter has pithily noted.)
NEW: The police narrative.
Check the jump for some of the school board back and forth.
UPDATE: I've added more after the original post as school board dialogue has continued. Perhaps a public meeting would be in order, since they are conducting public business as a group in a forum not readily available to the public.
UPDATE II: Still more Board member e-mail below and City Director Doris Wright, whose district includes Boyle Park, issued a statement today. She said she'll be working with police and others to discourage such gatherings in the park in the future and added, "I want the public to know that this unfortunate incident in no way reflects this park or the community in which it is located."
FROM TIFFANY HOFFMAN IN THE DISTRICT COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
There was an incident at Boyle Park today after school involving Fair and Hall students. Details are not clear at this time, but this is what we believe to have happened at this time. It is reported that two female students met at the park after school today to fight over a boy. One of the females was beaten pretty badly at the park. Other people (not clear exactly who) continued to show up and cause more fighting. Four Hall students and one J.A. Fair student were shot and taken to Baptist Hospital and Children’s. LRPD will continue to investigate into the late evening. Bobby Jones is requesting additional LRPD officers be placed at both Hall and J.A. Fair tomorrow.
Channel 7 is reporting on both incidents. I have an interview at 6:30 with them tonight.
I will do an interview with Channel 16 this evening regarding the Hall and Fair incident.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wanted to know if there were any incidents at school that would have lead to the events after school. There have been none reported at this time.
FROM BOARD MEMER MELANIE FOX
The press has already started calling me. The voicemail messages states that they want to know if Hall and JA Fair will have school tomorrow, how many people were hurt, why they were at the Park prior to school dismissing etc.. I have not spoken with anyone but I did call Dr. Watson about whether JA Fair and Hall will have school tomorrow. I have received a few phone calls from parents wanting to know what we are going to do about discipline at Hall. They, also, stated that their kids (and the whole school) knew there was going to be a showdown at the Park this afternoon.
FROM BOARD MEMBER BAKER KURRUS
I did not see any of the news at 6...
I would be extremely cautious with respect to live interviews.
FROM BOARD MEMBER LARRY BERKLEY 9:19 PM TUESDAY
I have worked with 6 superintendents (permanment and interim) now in my 12 years on the board. I can not imagine any one of the other superintendents who would have not personnally called the board members in a situation as serious as this.
FROM BOARD MEMBER MICHEAL DAUGHERTY 2:22 AM WEDNESDAY
This incident did not happen on LRSD property and the people involved were not under LRSD supervision because it was Senior Skip Day (according to those interviewed).
I think it is irresponsible of you to blame Dr. Watson for something that occurred in a city park and far away from any school campus. What was she suppose to report to you? Everyone learned the details as they became available through the LRPD. It should be very apparent the LRSD has little or no authority here and limited investigative ability. This is clearly a matter for the City of LR and the detectives of the LRPD. Also, I can remember several incidents that occurred at some of our high schools that were never reported to the board. We learned of them through the local news media. Shall I provide you past e-mails which address the matter?
FROM TIFFANY HOFFMAN, 4:43 AM WEDNESDAY
Dr. Watson asked me to send you an update on information we have at this
Bobby Jones has been working with contacts at LRPD to get as many details as
possible. However, the situation at Boyle Park this afternoon was very
complicated and the police will be working on interviewing witnesses late
into the night. There will be no final report from LRPD tonight.
At this time it looks like a parent/adult was the one who brought the gun to
the park and did the shooting.
Additional security will be at each of the high school campuses and
school-wide scans will be conducted at the high schools. Additional LRPD
officers have been requested for Hall and Fair.
FROM BOARD MEMBER MELANIE FOX 6:16 AM WEDNESDAY
Larry Berkley did not blame Dr. Watson for this incident. He merely stated that the board should have been notified. I returned home last night to a phone ringing off the wall. Parents and the media called and want questions answered. I realize this is a community issue and played out at a park however, why were students meeting at a park prior to school letting out? Another big question was; what is the district going to do about the safety of our students at Hall and JA Fair? How reassuring would it be if I had said, "not sure"?
FROM BOARD MEMBER MICHEAL DAUGHERTY 7:58 AM WEDNESDAY
From the interviews last evening, this was senior skip day and none of these students had attended school that day. The communications officer tried to keep you up to date on information as she received it regarding the incidents. This was an incident that happened outside the LRSD and allowed us limited jurisdiction. This is clearly a matter for the LRPD and the courts.
FROM BOARD MEMBER LARRY BERKLEY 7:33 AM WEDNESDAY
Three students at our schools were shot and another school had a gun inside the school. Those are significant enough that we should get a personal call from the superintendent. I still have not gotten a report of the condition of the students, except what I hear and read in the media.
FROM BOARD MEMBER MICHEAL DAUGHERTY 8:16 AM WEDNESDAY
The three students were not at our schools. They attend our schools but, according to reports, not that day. Ms.Hoffman e-mailed you as late as 0447 this morning with reports.
FROM INTERIM SUPT. LINDA WATSON 9:01 AM WEDNESDAY
When I left work, I attended another meeting. I was not at home and did not have your phone numbers with me. Therefore, I asked Mrs. Hoffman to send an email. I contacted Mr. Jones and he did not have the information and informed me that the information would not be ready until later that night. I can't give you, what I don't have.
FROM INTERIM SUPT. LINDA WATSON 9:05 AM WEDNESDAY
I didn't know who was shot until later and asked Mrs. Hoffman to send the email.
FROM SECURITY CHIEF ROBERT JONES 8:17 AM WEDNESDAY
The Safety and Security Department has assigned three officers to Hall High School and the police department has assigned one additional police officer at Hall. There has been two additional security officers and one police officer assigned to JA Fair to assist the principals.
It is my understanding at talking to the police that the incident had nothing to do with either Fair or Hall except the students participating in the assaults attended those two schools. The rumors are that the fight started between two girls, one from Hall and one from Fair, that were fighting over a boy and a problem that occurred several months ago. Unfortunately from this incident, students started emailing each other, parents became involved and a large number of students gathered. That’s when all the problems erupted. Several cars had their windows knocked out and the police believe that there were actually two guns being fired during the disturbance.
We are in the process of compiling names of students who were involved and will be working with the police department to assist them in identifying the individuals who were firing weapons or assaulting students. The police department has stated they hope to have us a copy of the police reports. It is my understanding that there are ten to fifteen reports. Both Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Hall have done an excellent job in getting their staff ready and being proactive for school this morning. We expect no problems, but if there are we will certainly have the manpower to handle it. I appreciate the cooperation that we’ve received from both principals and I will have a detailed report to the administration as soon as I receive the police reports.
Both Fair and Hall will have full school scans. In addition to officers being assigned to Hall and Fair, one mobile security officer has been assigned to Wakefield to assist Mr. Taylor because of the weapon that was discovered and the threat that was made to the student.
FROM BOARD MEMBER MELANIE FOX 8:35 AM WEDNESDAY
I did not get any report at 4:47 this morning. Would you please forward what you have received? I plan on visiting Hall this morning and would like to be able to respond to staff and parents appropriately.
FROM BOARD MEMBER MELANIE FOX 11:07 AM WEDNESDAY
Fellow Board Members,
I just visited Hall and I am happy to report that everything was running smoothly. The school was clean, traffic in halls was orderly, teachers were teaching and I was very impressed with the students and staff. I would like to encourage you all to visit Hall. Despite some bad publicity lately, there are some great things going on there.
FROM INTERIM SUPT. LINDA WATSON 1:15 PM WEDNESDAY
1. On yesterday at approximately 5:10, I was informed that a serious incident had occurred at Boyle Park involving Hall and J. A. Fair High School students.
2. I went to Mr. Babbs’ office in an effort to get details.
3. He called Mr. Jones, Director of Safety and Security, while I was in his office. However, he did not answer. He also attempted to contact Mrs. Rhonda Hall, Principal at Hall, but she could not be reached.
4. I explained to Mr. Babbs that I was leaving to attend another meeting and asked him to contact me when he had further news.
5. I received a call stating that a student had been killed.
6. While driving to the meeting, I contacted Mr. Jones, via cell phone and he told me that was not true; however, some students had been shot; but their injuries were not life threatening. He was waiting on further details. At that time, he did not know who, what, etc.
7. I attended the meeting. While exiting the meeting, I received a call stating that Mrs. Fox was trying to contact me.
8. I returned the call to Mrs. Fox who was concerned about the calls that she had received.
9. I called Mr. Jones again in an effort to get further information. He still did not know the details and stated that it would be awhile before he could get police reports due to the number of witnesses.
10. I called Mrs. Griffin so that she could send an email to the Board. She did not answer so I left a message.
11. Mrs. Hoffman was contacted and she sent information to the Board stating that we did not have the details.
This morning I visited Hall, along with Mr. Babbs and as stated below, everything was running smoothly. As I was leaving to go to J. A. Fair, Mr. Fields reported that everything was going well at J. A. Fair. He stated that Mr. Bobby Jones was there with him.
I know now from the police reports, Mr. Jones, Mrs. Hall, and Mrs. Allen, students from J. A. Fair were fighting and others jumped in the fight who attend Hall and Fair. Apparently, someone else started shooting. One student from Hall was beaten with a baseball bat and one was grazed by a bullet. Two students from Fair was shot, one in the foot and another was grazed on the shoulder by a bullet. Two other students fought and received injuries. A non-student was hit by a car.
Today, additional security guards and police were sent to both schools and everything seems to be going well. The schools’ administrators are conducting interviews with students to determine who were involved and if they came to school and then left or did not attend school on yesterday.
Because this incident occurred away from school, it was difficult to get the details in a timely manner. As I receive more information, I will forward to your attention.
FROM INTERIM SUPT. LINDA WATSON 4:14 PM
Dear Board Members:
Mr. Robert Jones, Director of Safety and Security, emailed the following report to me. I am forwarding it you in an effort to keep you informed on the educational climate at J. A. Fair and Hall High Schools. From all of the reports that I received, all went well today.
After talking with the principals and security officers at Fair and Hall, there was nothing unusual other than a minor problem at lunch between two individuals at Hall and no one was arrested. There was a minor problem at Hall reference to the early morning scan, because there were not enough scanners. We have since sent additional scanners to the school and I don’t think we will have the same problem if we have to do a full school scan again. There have been no indications that the events that occurred at Boyle Park yesterday afternoon carried over to the schools.
Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Allen have requested that additional security return to their schools and their requests will be granted by our department. The police department has advised us that they are going to increase the number of officers that are patrolling around Hall during the basketball tournament by two, and this should assist in proactive in any problems occurring during the basketball tournament.
Coach Johnson has done an excellent job in getting the gym ready and the security department has worked with him in getting security in place.
Again, I want to commend the excellent ways Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Hall have worked with the security department. We do not look for any further problems from the incident at Boyle Park. Copies of the police report have been given to both principals and we have asked the staff if a student gives any information about who the subjects were that had the guns and fired the weapons at the incident or the individuals that had the baseball bats, pass that information to the security officers and the SROs working at their school.
On talking to the detectives working the ballpark incident, they have good leads on the two people who they believe fired weapons and I expect that they will make an arrest today or tomorrow.
FROM SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT KATHERINE MITCHELL
I agree that any type of violence where individuals are injured is serious. However, this situation happened in the park and not on a school campus. Therefore, it is being handled or investigated by the police department. The district administrators, including the director of safety and security, had limited information. Even though I was not called at 5:10 PM when the incident was reported, I do appreciate getting the information as the administrators learned more about the incident.