Of the seven students arrested, five will be charged as juveniles and two as adults, said Doug Goodwin with the Cobb County School District. By the end of the school day Monday, Goodwin said he did not know what charges would be filed.
One 19-year-old senior at South Cobb High School, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Keanna, said there was a mass of people gathering in the hallway at lunch time.
“I heard somebody got jumped,” said Keanna.
During the fight, Keanna said Cobb County School District police officers rushed the crowd, releasing pepper spray, which caused the group of students to start coughing and wheezing.
Then, Keanna reported at least one student pulled from the fight.
“His shirt was all tore up,” she said.
Goodwin said the only people exposed to the pepper spray where the seven students involved in the altercation.
Word spread immediately Monday afternoon that South Cobb High School teachers, who helped break up the fight, were at the hospital being treated for exposure to pepper spray.
But according to Goodwin, only one of the officers was treated for exposure to pepper spray.
Ron Storey, the school district’s public safety director, said officers spray the chemical designed to irritate eyes, causing pain and temporary blindness, for crowd control.
“Usually, they will use it if there is a mass amount of people,” Storey said.
The district employs 38 police officers, so each high school always has at least one officer on campus. Seven Cobb high schools have two officers at a time, Storey said. Starting this academic year, each high school also has one marked squad car on campus.
On Monday afternoon, both officers assigned to South Cobb High School responded to the fight.
Fighting common in South Cobb
Another 19-year-old senior at South Cobb High School, David Larios, said fights often break out when the weather is bad.
Instead of students venturing out for lunch, the teenagers stay at school during hot weather or cold rain, like Monday afternoon.
“It all depends on the weather,” Larios said.
For guys, Larios said fights can break out over shoes being stepped on, especially Air Jordan’s. The “J’s” are original, retro designs that can cost as much as $500 a pair.
In this case, Larios said the fight started between two girls over “Facebook drama,” with one standing on a table at lunch time.
Larios said the issue was building throughout the morning, with gossip during classes about the possibility of a fight.
“It was anticipated,” Larios said.
South Cobb High School, under the leadership of principal Ashley Hosey since 2009, is comprised of many red-brick buildings with outside walkways and exposed spaces, including the fenced area sectioning off the football field, Clay Stadium.
Most of the time, Larios said police officers are not near the scene when the fight starts. The officers often catch up to the action with pepper spray and batons, often called nightsticks, to break up a fight, he said.
“Innocent victims get hurt,” said Larios, who wants Cobb teachers trained on “how to defend themselves and defend other students.”
“Teachers need to step their game up … It’s not the 1980s,” said Larios, emphasizing that Cobb schools deal with “heavy stuff” like “drugged-up” students.
Storey said it is often administrators and teachers who are closest to a fight.
“It is just a matter of getting them broke up and restrained,” Storey said.
As of fall 2013, there were 1,998 students enrolled at South Cobb High School, with 115 teachers on staff, Goodwin said.