Members of a Pennsylvania community were left disturbed by an incident that led to four teens being arrested at a high school basketball game.
According to The Morning Call, four students were arrested after one refused to leave the school during a junior varsity basketball game at Whitehall High School on Jan. 28.
A follow-up report by The Morning Call found that William Leiner Jr. and George Williams, members of the Whitehall-Coplay School Board, believe the incident was poorly handled and plan to support the teens by attending their court hearing on Wednesday.
Video from the gym showed four police officers and a police dog fighting with students in the bleachers.
“I’m disturbed by what happened,” Leiner said. “I have ideas I am bringing to the school board. I don’t want to ever see this again.”
The incident allegedly began with a 14-year-old boy whose sister died in a January car crash with a drunken driver. According to Superintendent Lorie Hackett, the boy’s girlfriend was consoling him in the hallway when the athletic director told them to return to the gym because the hallway is off limits during games.
The boy stalled in returning to the gym, leading school officials to ask him to leave the school. Police were summoned to remove him, leading to the confrontation. Three older students – two 17-year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy – sticking up for him were also taken into custody because police said they “physically attempted to block the officers from lawful arrest.”
“As soon as the police become involved, then that’s their call and their protocol,” Hackett said.
“The next time there is a student experiencing distress in this school, I hope that a counselor is called to the scene instead of the police,” Lehigh Valley Stands Up leader Ashleigh Strange said Monday.
One of the boys’ attorneys, John Waldron, said that they are being charged in juvenile court for several offenses, including a felony charge of inciting a riot as well as misdemeanors for defiant trespass, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of the administration of law. All four boys were held overnight at juvenile detention facilities, then placed under house arrest and prohibited from contacting each other.
“These are good kids. These are not kids who are out at night looking for mischief,” said Chantel Jenkins, whose son was arrested. “They’re just trying to get through school and start making something of themselves. I raised my kids to say yes, you’re a black kid, so if a cop says put your hands up, you listen. But I did teach my kids, you’re a civilian and you have a right to ask why, why are you doing this?
“My son was handcuffed. My son was not fighting them. You can see [the officer] pushing my son’s head into the bleachers. This has affected the whole school — to watch your friends be treated like that. I don’t think that just because you have a badge you should be allowed to treat a kid like that."