WILLMAR, Minn. - A fight stemming from a derogatory Facebook page escalated into an incident that led to a brief lockdown at Willmar Senior High School Friday afternoon.
Students and staff went into lockdown as a safety precaution, according to a statement from the school district.
At least two police reports were filed earlier in the week about students who said they were being harassed and were targets of vulgar comments on Facebook.
The Willmar Police Department was called to the school Friday afternoon and is investigating the incident.
According to a written statement from Principal Paul Schmitz, someone had created a “hateful webpage with inappropriate and hurtful comments about students in our school.”
During passing time between classes Friday afternoon, a group of students confronted another group they believed was responsible for the hurtful comments.
Schmitz said in his statement that tempers flared, and “there was yelling and pushing and several punches were thrown.”
Because it was between classes, dozens of other students were in the area when the fight broke out. The school was put into lockdown to keep more students from witnessing the fight and to bring more staff members to the commons area, Schmitz said in his statement.
Most of the students were onlookers, and many tried to help separate the students who were fighting, Schmitz said.
“The entire incident lasted a short time and order was quickly restored,” Schmitz wrote. “We have already begun working with law enforcement and the parents of the students involved to determine what consequences and interventions are needed going forward.”
A video submitted to the Tribune via email shows a loud chaotic scene in the commons area near the entrance between the cafeteria and the school counseling office.
The video, taken with a cell phone and lasting about 1 3/4 minutes, shows students milling around and talking to each other at first. The person shooting the video appears to be at the edge of the gathering.
In the first seconds of the video, Assistant Principal Neal Schendel can be seen moving into the crowd. Early in the video, students can be heard laughing and making joking remarks.
However, about halfway through the atmosphere changes. Voices are raised, and some students begin shoving. Others can be seen trying to calm things down.
By the end of the video, the fighting is nearly at the feet of the videographer, who appears to be near the back entrance doors.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt said several officers responded to the school Friday afternoon. No arrests were made immediately after the fight, but charges of disorderly conduct and fifth-degree assault are possible against several students.