Parents concerned about Spencer Elementary School fighting, so they write and phone the principal

Teenagers this spring have been so at odds with one another that a Northern Virginia high school was on lockdown last week after a brawl. And on Saturday, for the first time in four…

Teenagers this spring have been so at odds with one another that a Northern Virginia high school was on lockdown last week after a brawl. And on Saturday, for the first time in four years, a fight between students on the soccer field ended with a student being arrested.

Since the end of March, Spencer Elementary School students have waged fights with each other in the schoolyard, according to the parents of one student with a son who said he nearly got hit by several other boys before fighting. And last week, the fight reportedly ended as menacing music blared from nearby car stereos. Administrators were shocked, and a dozen Spencer parents showed up to tell school officials what they saw.

“[It] seemed like everyone was going to school, but everyone was going to fighting,” said Stan Swearingen, father of a sixth-grader at Spencer. “People just started going to class, because it was good for the students.”

In addition to the fight, about 20 to 25 Spencer students had gotten into fights with each other in the past couple of weeks, Swearingen said. He added that last Friday night, the student alleged to have started the first fight met with a student he referred to as “the guy who put the student in a headlock,” according to the parent of one boy who was at the school at the time. Police officers, responding to reports of that disturbance, found seven students fighting on the grounds of a nearby baseball field, and at least one of the injured was taken to the hospital, according to students. It’s unknown whether he suffered any serious injuries.

Fredericksburg, Va.-based attorney Susan Smith, who represents the parents of the ninth-grader, said there is no evidence that their son was responsible for any of the fighting, but that he too was assaulted. “We’ve got no evidence that [he] started it, so we just want to let this kid be punished for what he’s done,” she said.

Meanwhile, administrators are now also investigating allegations that a Spencer student may have started a similar disturbance in the parking lot on Tuesday, students said. Over the weekend, Smith said, at least a dozen Spencer parents approached school officials. They had already expressed their concerns to Smith’s client on Friday, but the couple of dozen students on the playground showed up at the school Monday to speak to school administrators about what they witnessed during the first fight last Friday night.

According to Mr. Swearingen, the two fighting ninth-graders who were taken to the hospital Saturday and Sunday are not his son or the student he was with on Friday. He said he expects the district to hold the first-grader accountable for his actions, but that disciplinary action was more appropriate if he was beaten by other students. “You can’t beat up somebody and bring the whole class to a public school,” he said.

The Spencer Elementary School principal, Lola Spaulding, did not respond to questions, including whether it was OK for students to start fights when music blared from nearby cars in the schoolyard.

A spokesman for the Washington, D.C., public schools declined to comment on the Spencer incidents or whether principals were acting appropriately. But a school district policy suggests that, under certain circumstances, teachers should allow disruptive students to take all required classes, instead of suspending or barring them.

McLean police spokeswoman Jennifer Holland told the News-Press the department initiated the first investigation into the incidents last Friday night and will continue to evaluate any criminal charges, the newspaper reported.

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