Police respond to large fight at Groveport Madison High School prior to spring break


By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

Seventeen police officers from different law enforcement agencies responded to fights involving about a dozen students at Groveport Madison High School March 31.

Groveport Police view
According to Groveport Police Lt. Josh Short, the incident began with three girl students fighting in the bus loading area at the end of the school day. School staff and resource officers broke up that fight and, as they were walking the students to the office, another larger fight, consisting of mostly male students, broke out only a few feet away. The Madison Township resource officer was punched by a female student. The officer called for support on the police radio.

“At least 12 (students) were actively involved in fighting and dozens more were in and around the area recording and encouraging the participants,” said Short. “What people often discount is that an incident like this also requires involvement from dozens of school staff, not just to break up the fight, but to try to maintain order afterwards. School staff then has to babysit rather than teach, counsel, assist, coach, etc.”

Short said multiple officers remained on the scene for over an hour to keep students separated while staff struggled to contact parents.

“In a lot of these incidents, when the school is able to get a parent to show up to pick up their student, the parent becomes confrontational as well,” said Short.

Some students were checked by medics for minor cuts and bruises, but no significant injuries were reported.

Short said 17 officers from Groveport Police and Madison Township Police and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene.

“When the officer called for help on the radio, it sounded like a chaotic, violent mess in the background,” said Short. “It has gotten to the point that, whenever one of our resource officers calls for help at the high school, nearly every available car in the zone will respond because the incidents there have been so volatile.”

Short could confirm that one female student was charged with assault on a police officer and taken to juvenile detention.

“We are still reviewing video and interviewing staff and students about the incident,” said Short. “At this time, we have at least nine other students that face criminal charges, which could be disorderly conduct or potentially something more severe.”

However, Short said police are having difficulties in communication with the Franklin County Juvenile Court system as to the most appropriate charges.

“We had recently filed charges, for a previous incident, that we felt were appropriate but were summarily dismissed by the juvenile court,” said Short. “We have not been able to get a return call or email, despite multiple attempts, for clarification as to why the charges were dismissed. Unfortunately, it seems over the past year or so that Franklin County’s Juvenile Court system’s definition of justice is vastly different than ours on the enforcement end.”

When asked, besides the school district’s ongoing efforts to curtail such incidents, what else can be done to solve these problems, Short said, “This keeps happening because there is no fear of consequences by the student. There is often no fear of consequences at home, school, in criminal court or a combination of those.”

He said, to affect any real change, the district would need to commit to serious and consistent enforcement of its code of conduct and simple school rules and decorum.

“It all starts with the little things,” said Short. “If students refuse to follow basic rules they are not going to care about civility. If the district in being handcuffed in that regard by state laws, then perhaps those need to be revisited as well. This would need to be backed up by a juvenile court system that holds offenders accountable with serious penalties and not an overwhelming desire to plea down or dismiss so many cases. It’s difficult to cure a fight culture in the school when students that fight are allowed back in the school.”

Madison Township officer was struck
According to Madison Township Police Chief Gary York, Madison Township School Resource Officer Brian Schwotzer was punched in the head during the incident while he and school staff members attempted “to break up multiple pre-planned fights that occurred near the buses during dismissal.”

According to York, Schwotzer grabbed one of the females who were involved in the fight and started taking her back to the school office when another fight broke out in front of the buses.

“Multiple staff members were attempting to restrain the second fight,” said York. “Officer Schwotzer let go of the first female and attempted to block anyone else from getting involved when he was hit on the left side of his head with a fist by one of the students involved in the second fight because she was upset she was being restrained from fighting.”

York said the juvenile was arrested and charged with assault. Schwotzer’s injury was treated on the scene.

Madison Township Police Chief’s view
York said, compared to the overall population at the high school, only a small percentage of students are making bad choices.

“The vast majority of the young adults are there to learn, unfortunately, they are being lumped into the stigma of the ongoing incidents at the school,” said York. “If you think it is okay to display socially unacceptable behavior, fail to respect others, and their property, and refuse to obey staff and administrators, then you’ve made a bad choice with consequences that could include removal, suspension, expulsion, or permanent exclusion from school. If you think it is okay to physically assault a police officer, then you’ve made a really bad choice with immediate consequences, and those consequences will include being arrested, charged with a felony, and locked up.”

York said the school district has monthly First Responder Safety and District Safety Committee meetings.

“I can assure you that the Groveport Madison School District, as well as the first responders, take the safety of both students and staff seriously. Solving these problems starts at home with parental interaction and guidance throughout their personal lives.”

Groveport Madison response
Groveport Madison Schools officials sent this message to parents and guardians following the March 31 incident:

“We want to make you aware that at least 10 Groveport Madison High School students were involved in fights as students were being dismissed this afternoon (March 31). Police responded to the school and assisted in quelling the situation. There were no injuries. We will pursue appropriate disciplinary actions against those involved and it’s likely police charges will be filed. We will keep you informed of any additional developments as we conclude our investigation.”


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