- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

A weekend gang altercation flared up again yesterday, leading to a melee in the cafeteria of Ballou High School in Southeast.

“It started small and expanded to a large number of students,” said Bill Wilhoyte, assistant superintendent of D.C. Public Schools. Witnesses said a fight between two students quickly escalated, involving more than a dozen students within seconds.

Mr. Wilhoyte said six to eight contract security officers and a D.C. police school resource officer were in the school when the incident occurred during a lunch period. The number of students involved prompted school officials to summon additional D.C. police officers.

“These kinds of events happen very quickly, and they’re over very quickly,” Mr. Wilhoyte said, adding that those involved were students thought to have gang ties. More than a dozen police cruisers were parked outside the school by the time order was restored.

An unconscious teenage boy was taken to Howard University Hospital by ambulance, and a D.C. police officer was taken to Providence Hospital.

“She appeared to be suffering from overexertion,” said Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, adding that the officer’s primary complaint was difficulty breathing.

Authorities said no weapons were involved.

Police and school security officers were determining whether any charges would be filed or any students would face disciplinary action. Officials were uncertain what sparked the weekend conflict that led to the altercation. No arrests were made.

School officials implemented a “shelter in place” policy, which meant students were kept inside classrooms and could be retrieved only by parents or legal guardians listed on school records.

Ballou was closed Oct. 2 after a student removed elemental mercury from an unlocked science classroom and the toxic substance was spilled in various areas of the building. Decontamination took more than a month.

The reopening of the school Wednesday was marred by gunfire on a nearby street just before dismissal. No one was hurt. Randolph Wood, 18, who is not a student at Ballou, was charged with gun-related offenses.

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