NCHS fights yield 16 arrests

Published 8:50 am Thursday, October 16, 2014

JACKSON – An investigation into a Sept. 25 melee that forced the evacuation of Northampton County High School has ended with 16 students facing charges.

All but one of the students charged were involved in several fights that erupted on the school’s football field, where the students and staff were sent after the ventilation system in the main building filled with fumes from the pepper spray used by the NCHS Resource Officer (SRO) in an attempt to break up a fight in the lunchroom

The lunchroom fight only involved two students. One, 17-year-old Demonta Johnson of Jackson, was arrested and charged with assault causing injury, and resisting arrest.

In that case, the SRO – Northampton Deputy Dwayne Carter – observed Johnson on top of another student, a 14-year-old male, and was punching him repeatedly in the face.

“The 14-year-old had suffered several blows to the face and was bleeding profusely,” Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on the day after the fight. “At that point, Deputy Carter attempted to break-up the fight by physically removing the student (Johnson) off of the other student. When that didn’t work as planned, Deputy Carter ordered him (Johnson) to cease the physical assault. Not only did the student (Johnson) not heed the deputy’s words, he also pushed the deputy, at which time my deputy used two-to-three bursts of pepper spray to disengage the attacker.

“He (Carter) used the least amount of force to break-up the fight. Unfortunately, the pepper spray got into the ventilation system and affected other areas of the school building,” Smith added.

Much to the dismay of school officials and law enforcement officers, the fighting did not stop. Smith said several other fights broke out between students on the football field. That led Smith to call for back-up from other Northampton deputies and officers from each of the county’s municipal police departments, as well as from the Murfreesboro Police Department and Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.

“We know and appreciate that the majority of the students gathered on the football field did what they were asked to do by law enforcement and by school staff. It was only a small handful of students who were causing 95 percent of the problems,” Smith said.

Northampton Sheriff’s Investigator Bo Deloatch handled the probe into the fights at the football field. He wound-up charging nine of-age students with disorderly conduct at a school, while another, 18-year-old Timartus Britt of Rich Square, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Deloatch said Britt allegedly had a chain wrapped around his hand and assaulted another student. The victim did not receive serious injuries.

The remaining charges were filed against juveniles who were reportedly involved in the fights. Each was served with a juvenile petition for disorderly conduct at a school.

In the aftermath of the fights, officials with Northampton County Public Schools conducted two community sessions on both ends of the county.

“These forums were scheduled to be held in every one of our communities at the start of the new school year as part of the strategic goals and objectives adopted by our school board,” said Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter, Schools Superintendent. “Of course we had no idea back in August when we planned these sessions that among the topics to be discussed would be fighting among students on one of our campuses.”

She added that it was her goal as well as that of the school board to be open and transparent about what is occurring on school grounds.

“These recent sessions were an opportune time to address the aggressive behavior shown by some of our students back on Sept. 25 at the high school,” Smith-Woofter said. “We hope that the lessons learned from that day will not lead to a repeat.”

She added that Northampton Public Schools fully promotes a safe environment at all of its campuses.

“We are charged with providing a safe and nurturing educational environment for our students, staff, and even the parents who may be visiting one of our campuses,” Smith-Woofter stressed. “What we ask for in return is for everyone that I just mentioned to cooperate and work together to provide that safe and nurturing environment. When our students are engaged in learning, it hopefully deters bad behavior.

“We appreciate the parents and community members that took part in our two recent sessions, there were over 100 combined. They made some great suggestions to engage all stakeholders in a positive way,” she closed.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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