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Food Fight at Chicago School Lands 25 Kids in Jail

A good, old-fashioned food fight -- an academic tradition right up there with reading, writing and arithmetic -- at a school in Chicago ended with two dozen children handcuffed and thrown in jail.

The messy battle happened last Thursday on the Calumet middle-school campus of Perspectives Charter Schools on the South Side of Chicago. The food fight began in the usual way -- one child threw something, another child responded, and it escalated from there.

But Diana Shulla-Cose, president and co-founder of Perspectives Charter Schools, told The New York Times that it kept escalating, to the point where an on-campus police officer called for backup. That resulted in a heavy police presence that eventually led to the large number of arrests.

In all, 25 kids ages 11 to 15 were arrested and tossed into jail cells. A spokesman for the Chicago police said the charges were reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.

“My children have to appear in court,” said Erica Russell, the mother of two eighth-grade girls who spent eight hours in jail. “They were handcuffed, slammed in a wagon, had their mug shots taken and treated like real criminals.

"They’re all scared,” Ms. Russell said of all of the arrested students. “You never know how children will be impacted by that. I was all for some other kind of punishment, but not jail. Who hasn’t had a food fight?”

The students were released into the custody of their parents. They were also suspended from school for two days. Shulla-Cose said the school is working with the families of students who were arrested to support them through the process of getting their kids back to class.

She described the entire episode as “unfortunate” but added, “We don’t take this lightly.”

School officials met with parents on Tuesday to talk about the incident. One issue of discussion was the apparent randomness of the arrests.

“My daughter said someone threw an apple at her, so she retaliated,” Shirlanda Sivels said. “I said, ‘Why didn’t they grab you, too?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’ She didn’t feel good about it, seeing her friends taken away.”

If the case proceeds, the children would likely be sentenced to probation or community service.


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