Multiple police were dispatched Friday morning to Kenmore High School in Akron to quell a fight among dozens of students, many of whom face rioting charges.
In all, 13 students were arrested. Police estimate as many as 40 students were involved in the melee inside the school.
The dispute, police believe, was a carryover from Thursday, when rival gang members fought outside the school after classes ended and again later that evening near the corner of Manchester Road and Thornton Avenue.
Tempers flared recently, but police say the rivalry between the neighborhood gangs known as the V-Nots and Hilltoppers dates back 20 to 30 years.
No serious injuries were reported, and no weapons were involved.
A police officer assigned to the building used pepper spray to help bring the situation under control.
Mark Williamson, spokesman for Akron Public Schools, said that an ambulance was called to the school to assist an asthmatic student exposed to the mist.
The situation was brief and under control by about 9:30 a.m., some 15 minutes after it began. Police, however, continued to lead handcuffed students out of the building for the next hour. A lockdown remained intact beyond 11 a.m. as police and staff investigated the matter and reviewed surveillance footage to ensure that no one was in the school building who should not be there.
During the height of the incident, chatter on the police scanner turned urgent, including a man saying frantically: “I need cops! I need cops!”
The fight started on the second floor at Kenmore — shortly after staff learned of a Facebook message that alluded to a possible fight at the school.
Williamson said early reports indicated that an 18-year-old student, possibly from Buchtel High School, entered Kenmore shortly before the fight began.
“It was very chaotic. It started out with a couple people and ended up with a couple dozen people. Luckily, no one was injured,” he added.
Upset parents lined the sidewalks and tried to enter the school to retrieve their children, who had called from cellphones.
“My niece just gave me a disturbing call,” said Ida Carter, a local resident with a daughter, niece and nephew attending Kenmore. She stood in a crowd of about 20 parents and grandparents near the school’s entrance off Battles Avenue.
“I don’t know exactly what is going on,” Carter said as she shared rumors with other concerned parents, some yelling and cursing at police and school administrators. “This is really crazy.”
Some parents forced their way through police and into the building. As they exited the school, they voiced frustration that a student from another school could enter Kenmore, secured by locked doors with buzzers and under surveillance.
“Our security systems are not infallible. So if a student comes into a building and looks like a student, we may not necessarily spot that person quickly enough,” Williamson said. “If that person gets in the building and runs up the stairs immediately. This happens pretty fast.”
The lockdown was lifted about noon, and students were released to parents. The school was closed for the rest of the day.
A “Stop the Violence” rally — previously scheduled — is planned for 5 p.m. today at the First Glance youth center, 943 Kenmore Blvd.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.