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Flint, MI— Several fights at Southwestern Classical Academy on Nov. 12 required police involvement and the use of mace on multiple students, according to eyewitnesses.
“Earlier today, there was an altercation at Southwestern Classical Academy between two students that required assistance from the local police department. The school followed safety protocols by implementing lockdown procedures – keeping our scholars in their classrooms while the police handled the incident. Any additional questions pertaining to the altercation should be directed to the local police department,” Interim Superintendent Kevelin Jones said in a statement.
A 17-year-old female student, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, said the school was on lockdown from approximately noon to 3:00 p.m.
Police officials did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The student said she recalls a security guard using mace on two male students who were arguing, but not involved in a physical fight.
“Then one of the security guards came in and maced randomly on a bunch of students. This would continue to happen several times where also a physical fight would happen,” she said, adding that she saw one female student “randomly” maced four separate times.
“Some students were arrested for not going onto the bus after being maced. Our school principal was being physical to get students onto the bus,” she said.
Southwestern’s principal, Christopher Ochodnicky, did not respond by press time.
Betty Nostrant, who serves as the Flint Community Schools representative to the Genesee Intermediate School District Parent Advisory Committee, said her 15-year-old son, Charles Nostrant, wasn’t involved in the fights but got caught in the crossfire.
“My son, Charles, was getting ready to go out to the bus and they were in this little hallway. A fight started to break out. He didn’t know if it was security or officers because he got maced so fast,” Nostrant said. ”He couldn’t go anywhere. He couldn’t get into a room. He couldn’t get away from the situation because they had him locked in.”
Nostrant said that he was forced to sit on a bus for 45 minutes with mace in his eyes and no medical treatment.
“His face was on fire. He ran into the house, and I had to immediately put cold milk on his face,” Nostrant said. “I had to call his doctor who told me that if he’s having vision problems in a couple hours that I have to take him to the ER. Because that’s a long time to have mace sitting on your eyes and your face and mouth.”
Nostrant said she was not notified of the situation while it was happening. The district sent out a robocall alerting families at 5:42 p.m., three hours after school had ended.
“Good evening Southwestern Classical Academy Parents. Due to a situation involving multiple students in an altercation, it was necessary to put Southwestern into lockdown. Police assisted in helping to calm the situation. The team at Southwestern worked to make sure that students were able to exit the building and board their busses safely at the end of the school day,” the message said.
Nostrant said that using mace was “inappropriate.”
“They should be able to crowd control children without macing them,” Nostrant said. “I can tell you if I maced my child right now, I’d have CPS at my door for child abuse.”
Parent LaToya Martin, whose son attends Southwestern, sees it differently.
“I thought the staff did an amazing job and security for stepping in and following procedure, and the police for their very fine enforcement. A job well done on a situation that could’ve became way out of control,” Martin said. “I feel if my child is aware of consequences and rules, and they know that those rules will be enforced and applied, I think my child should do everything they can to avoid any situation that will lead to them getting maced, tased, or restrained, or detained.”
The anonymous student told Flint Beat that, in her experience, fights happen “a lot” and macing happens sometimes, but she’s never seen it used to this extent before.
“I think the Flint staff need to be replaced. I feel like this could’ve been handled a lot better and a lot of things could’ve been done to prevent everything. There’s no reason to bring out a mace with every altercation. Security will mace students then not help them afterwards. I feel like the safety for students isn’t valued,” she said.