Controversy Surrounds Churchill High Fight

NBC4 (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 5, 2007

Montgomery County police are investigating a fight at a high school that apparently involved gang members.

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The fight occurred at Churchill High School in the 11300 block of Gainsborough Road in Potomac on Wednesday.

Police said that at about 11:25 a.m., officers went to the school on a report of a fight in progress outside the building. Police saw many students being separated by school security officers.

The investigation determined that the fight between six male students began near the school store. It began because of previous disagreements between the students, police said.

A verbal argument escalated when one student suggested they take it outside. Other students followed in order to watch, police said. A code blue was activated during the fight.

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Police said the same students were involved in a fight at the school in November. The school conducted mediation involving the students, parents, staff and police after that fight, but another incident occurred away from the school in December. Wednesday’s fight apparently came in reaction to the December incident.

Police said the animosity exists between two groups of students. One group is affiliated with the Criminal Street Gang 54, according to authorities. Police said they do not consider the fights gang-related, even though gang members were involved.

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A letter from Joan Benz, Churchill’s principal, was sent home to parents on Wednesday. It said one of the students “was kicked, his glasses broken, and he has cuts and scrapes on his face and arms.”

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“I have failed to mention another devastating fact,” the letter said. “Every incident revolving around this two-month ordeal has been black-on-black violence.”

Benz later wrote another letter to parents to apologize for the comment, which some people deemed as racially insensitive.

“I deeply apologize to our Churchill students and parents who were offended and want to reassure you that I value each and every student in our school community and work every day to make sure each student is successful,” the letter said. “I did not intend to single out one group of students in a negative light. I am particularly sorry that my choice of words reflected racial insensitivity.”

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