WESTERLY — Six students were arrested after a disruption in the cafeteria at Westerly High School during a lunch period Wednesday afternoon. Police and school officials said it was one of three isolated “disagreements” that occurred at the school during the course of the day.
Officers were called to the school around 12:30 p.m. after a possible fight in the cafeteria was reported. Westerly Police Chief Richard Silva said officers quickly “de-escalated the situation,” although the behavior of several students warranted charges.
“We dispatched several officers, as we were dealing with a large crowd and juveniles who had to be transported separately, so there were multiple cruisers that would have been present,” Silva said. “To the best of my knowledge, there was no actual physical fight.”
One of the students, Jacob Schafer, 18, of 7 Connors Ave., was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Five others between the ages of 14 and 16 were also charged.
There was no evidence that any punches were thrown or that an assault had occurred, Silva said, but some students were disruptive and ignored warnings to calm down.
The cause of the disturbance was not clear, and Silva and Principal Todd Grimes said officials are still investigating.
All of the students were released later in the day. Schafer’s case has been forwarded to Fourth Division District Court while the juvenile cases were referred to Rhode Island Family Court, officials said.
Grimes said three isolated incidents occurred at the school on Wednesday. The school staff and administration also dealt with a verbal altercation between two boys at the start of the day, as well as a physical attack that led to charges against a student after a girl suffered minor injuries.
According to police records, a 16-year-old was charged with disorderly conduct and simple assault following a one-on-one confrontation in the quad area just outside the school around 11 a.m. The second juvenile, also 16, was taken to the hospital as a precaution. Police did not release further details, but the victim was known to be female.
The incidents were unrelated, Grimes said, and those who were involved were known to one another. Because of the nature of the lunchtime disturbance and the police response — and in the interest of student and faculty safety — Grimes said school administrators decided to send out a phone message to parents regarding the incidents.
Grimes said the goal of the robocalls was to inform the public, to assure parents that student safety remains a top priority, and to begin a community discussion to help assure that students are not affected by such disruptions moving forward. He said administrators are also looking at internal measures to prevent further incidents. Grimes said such disturbances are uncommon at Westerly High School; he indicated that there were as many incidents Wednesday as occurred during the entire 2016-17 school year.
“We are fortunate in Westerly to have a great sense of community; now we as school administrators need to utilize that,” Grimes said. “Safety has been and will always remain our top priority.”