Large Fight Outside Columbia High School on Thursday Draws Police Response

by Mary Barr Mann
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Four students were released to either parents or school administrators after a large fight involving Columbia High School students took place near Valley Street and Parker Avenue outside the high school during the final period of classes on Thursday, September 15.

No weapons were involved and all students refused medical attention, according Maplewood Police.

School officials reported that “CHS administrators will follow guidelines as per the CHS Code of Conduct” regarding any disciplinary actions.

The community became alerted to the incident when police sent a Nixle alert at 3:43 p.m. on Thursday, September 15 which read: “Alert: Large fight at Columbia high school. Officers are currently on scene.”

In response to a request for more information, Maplewood Deputy Police Chief Albert Sally sent the following to Village Green, “On 09/15/22 at approximately 1533 hours officers were dispatched to Valley Street and Parker Avenue on a large fight. Officers on scene determined that 4 Colombia High School Students were involved in a physical altercation. The fight between the juveniles started during the school day and on social media. No weapons were involved, all refused medical attention and all juveniles were released to a parent or to school administration.”

In response to an email inquiry, South Orange-Maplewood School District Communications Director Anide Eustache responded, “The incident occurred off-campus during 9th period which is a conference period at the high school, so no codes were called. [CHS] Principal [Frank] Sanchez did share an announcement via Canvas (which students and parents have access to) which basically read: ‘We want to remind students that period 9 is a conference period in which you are to meet with teachers for extra help. If students cannot use that time appropriately moving forward, we will ask students to leave campus and the surrounding area. Remember that you represent our school when you’re off campus. Make us proud.’”

Eustache added, “Regarding any disciplinary action, the CHS administrators will follow guidelines as per the CHS Code of Conduct.”

According to the Code of Conduct & Restorative Justice document posted on somsd.k12.nj.us, fighting results in a tier three response for first offenses and a tier four response for second or third offenses.

Any disciplinary action for fighting could include restorative practices and an in-school suspension for tier three and possible suspension or expulsion for tier four responses.

A suspension “moratorium” passed last October by the Board of Education for the majority of the 2021-22 year (which significantly reduced out-of-school suspensions but did not eradicate them) has not been extended for this year; however, Supt. of Schools Dr. Ronald Taylor reported at the August 25 BOE meeting that new protocols put in place during the moratorium will be continued.

Said Taylor,  “So the moratorium, of course, has timed out. So a lot of those report mechanisms and some of those pieces have timed out, but the update is that we are continuing with that methodology of collecting the information and reviewing it along with the applicable restorative practices. And [Asst. Superintendent of Access & Equity] Dr. [Kevin] Gilbert will be serving in that role this year to be a thought partner with those principals to also review – I think one of the outcomes we shared during those presentations is that we knew that one of the impacts of the reduction of suspensions was the added layer of monitoring, so we are going to maintain that this year.”

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