Teen arrested in fight that injured Park High School staff

A 15-year-old Park High School student was arrested for assault and other charges for allegedly shoving, punching and biting school staff who had responded to a possible gang-related fight last week.

The Cottage Grove teen ran from Park staff and police after the Feb. 22 cafeteria fight, but stopped when he saw an officer brandish a stun gun, according to the police report.

An assistant principal and at least two other staff members reported suffering minor injuries as they tried to break up the fight and apprehend the aggressor. Park went into temporary lockdown during the incident as a safety precaution for students and staff, the report indicated, and staff tried to close the cafeteria to contain the fighting students.

In all, five students received juvenile disorderly conduct citations, in addition to the teen who was arrested. The school district also imposed unspecified consequences.

Police were called to the school at 11:54 a.m. The first responding officer was asked if more police were on the way because there were multiple students fighting. A Cottage Grove police officer is based out of Park as a school resource officer but was not at the building when the fight started.

A hall monitor interviewed by police after the incident said she had heard loud yelling and a possible fight occurring. She said the suspect student was trying to fight another student. She got between them and the 15-year-old swore at her, stood within inches of her nose to yell at her and then slammed her into a wall. She had a sore shoulder afterward, according to the report.

Another Park staff member jammed his thumb when he deflected a chair that had been thrown by a student.

Assistant principal Jonathan Hunt tried to restrain the suspect student, but the teen bit Hunt on each arm and then punched him in the left eye. Hunt told police later he was not hit hard.

At some point during the fracas, the student got hold of Hunt’s portable radio staff used to communicate with one another. The student took the radio and fled toward the activities center.

An officer chased him outside the building and into the parking lot. Based on the student’s prior actions, the officer brandished a stun gun for “display” purposes, the report said. The student stopped and was apprehended.

In a police interview, the student admitted to punching and biting Hunt and taking the radio. He said he would have run more but saw a Taser so he stopped.

The teen was transported to the Washington County juvenile detention center. He was expected to be charged with fourth-degree assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing on foot and theft.

The other students who were cited include two 15-year-old boys, a 14-year-old girl and two other boys, ages 14 and 16. All are from Cottage Grove.

Two administrators told police they believed the fight may have been gang-related, referencing an attempt to jump a teen into the “PBK gang.”

In addition to the police arrest and citations, administrators imposed “appropriate consequences” based on the student handbook, according to a school and district statement.

The statement said that after the fight last week administrators heard “pockets of rumors” about other incidents and followed through on them, but nothing has happened.

“This is the time for all who are part of the Park High School community to have honest, open conversations at the school and at home about what they see and hear,” Principal Ginger Garski said. “We always work to ensure a safe, welcoming environment for our students and staff.”

Administrators encouraged students to speak with school staff if they have concerns about the Park environment.