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Police arrest 11 in school brawl at Woodland Hills Junior High

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By The The Tribune-Review
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Swissvale police arrested 11 teens involved in an after-school fight today at Woodland Hills Junior High School, said borough police Chief Gregory L. Geppert.

The fight started in a parking lot outside the school on Evans Street while the students were waiting to get onto the school bus, Geppert said.

The junior high students are all 13 and 14 years old.

One large fight spilled into 10 smaller fights, Geppert said. Two Swissvale police officers assigned to the school and two school security guards called for additional police assistance when they couldn't break up the fights on thei

Eleven Woodland Hills Junior High School students were arrested following a brawl that erupted in the parking lot after classes Wednesday.

It was the largest fight in the past two years at the school on Evans Avenue in Swissvale, said borough police Chief Gregory L. Geppert. He said the neighborhood dispute involved students from East Pittsburgh and North Braddock.

"We used to go through this on a daily basis, but we've had 100 percent cooperation with the (present) school administration and school board," said Geppert. "The (Allegheny County) District Attorney's Office has been an astronomical help."

Two officers suffered minor hand injuries in the melee that erupted around 3 p.m. as students were boarding buses, Geppert said.

The school's two School Resource Officers -- borough police officers assigned to patrol the building -- and several security guards tried to break up the fight but couldn't stop other students from getting involved.

The officers called for backup, but before help arrived the fight "increasingly got out of hand," Geppert said.

When more than a dozen other officers from Swissvale, Edgewood, Braddock Hills and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office arrived, there were about 10 separate fights going on, Geppert said.

Geppert said seven students were cited for disorderly conduct, four were charged with inciting a riot and resisting arrest, and two of them also were charged with aggravated assault for injuring the officers.

The four facing the most serious charges were turned over to juvenile authorities. The others were released to their parents.

Those arrested are between the ages of 12 and 14, Geppert said. Students in the seventh and eighth grades attend the school.

Woodland Hills officials are treating the incident seriously, said district spokeswoman Maria McCool.

"The students who were involved will be disciplined severely," she said. "We have no tolerance for this."

Geppert said he will recommend that a few of the students arrested be expelled from the school.

"One of them just got released from Shuman (Juvenile Detention) Center yesterday," Geppert said.

One parent, Michelle Washington, was angry that her son was arrested.

"They'll see us in court. My son was on the bus while the big fight was going on. They came on, pulled him off and arrested him. He didn't do anything," Washington said.

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