By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
More than a dozen students at the District's Cardozo High School were injured yesterday and 16 were arrested after a large group of girls began fighting in the basement lunchroom and several smaller fights broke out nearby, police and witnesses said.
Authorities said that most of the injuries were minor but that one student, a 17-year-old male, was knocked unconscious in a fall and suffered a head injury. They said the youth was taken by ambulance to Howard University Hospital and regained consciousness on the way.
Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. fire department, said that about 15 students complained of injuries and that five were treated at hospitals.
"Basically it was a huge brawl going on in the cafeteria, and we had to evacuate the hallways," said Laneisha McCauley, a ninth-grader at the 816-student school in the Columbia Heights area of Northwest Washington. "I thought it was ridiculous. Crazy."
D.C. police Cmdr. Brian Jordan of the school security unit said the brawl, which began about noon, apparently stemmed from a dispute outside of school.
"Evidently there was an incident that occurred after school [Monday] between some of the young ladies, and it spilled over into the school," Jordan said. "All indications are it might have occurred over something as minor as somebody pulling somebody's hair."
He said officers assigned to Cardozo called for help about noon after they encountered "a large group of females engaging in just a big fight" in the lunchroom.
Patrol cars from across the department's 3rd District converged on the school, in the 1200 block of Clifton Street NW. "As a result of the large fight, several other melees began to erupt" near the lunchroom and on the first floor, Jordan said.
Of the 16 students arrested, 15 are juveniles and one is an 18-year-old male, Jordan said. He said one of the students was charged with misdemeanor assault on a police officer, two with aggravated assault and most of the rest with disorderly conduct.
Students resumed classes after the fights were quelled, Jordan said. To prevent groups of young people from congregating outside the school after dismissal, officials had students leave at staggered intervals after 3 p.m., and police officers stationed around the school forced them to keep moving until they were out of the immediate neighborhood.
"It was calm at first, and then it was shocking," said ninth-grader Wendy Holmes as she left the school to walk home.
"People don't like each other, so they start fighting," said ninth-grader Tianna Taylor. "It's wild. Crazy. Indescribable. . . . People fighting everywhere you look."