EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 28, 2013

Haverhill, Methuen suspend students involved in brawl

Haverhill High orders 10-day punishments; Methuen withholds discipline details

By Mike LaBella

---- — Officials at Haverhill and Methuen high schools have suspended students involved in last week’s brawl that followed a basketball game between the schools.

The fight outside Haverhill High resulted in the arrest of two Haverhill students and five Methuen students, according to police, but school officials say they aren’t the only students who were disciplined. Other students involved in the fight but not arrested have also been suspended, officials said.

Haverhill High Principal Bernard Nangle said the two Haverhill students arrested were suspended for 10 days and another student identified as contributing to the violence was suspended for the same amount of time. School officials said the rules of conduct are outlined in the student handbook and that the students involved broke those rules by participating in the fight.

According to the Haverhill High handbook, students are prohibited from engaging in behavior such as name calling, teasing, taunting, bullying and fighting.

“A student who assaults another student will be subject to discipline, which could include expulsion,” the handbook says. In addition, the handbook states that all students must respond immediately to directives from adults or risk being disciplined.

“All face a disciplinary hearing before they return” to school, Nangle said of the suspended students.

He said that in addition to disciplining students, he has also warned all Haverhill High students not to get involved in these kinds of situations.

“Announcements have been made concerning school conduct at all after-school activities,” Nangle said.

Methuen High Principal James Giuca said five students have been suspended, but he declined to be specific about the punishment.

“I met with the students and their parents (Monday),” Giuca said. “I gave the students the opportunity to speak about the allegations. Having then considered what was discussed, I issued appropriate suspensions coupled with probationary measures.”

Haverhill Police Lt. Robert Pistone said that prior to the Feb. 19 basketball game between the two schools, Haverhill High’s police resource officer learned of an altercation between Methuen and Haverhill students at a hockey game Feb. 16 at the Valley Forum rink. Pistone said the decision was made to send extra officers to the basketball game at Haverhill High. There were no arrests in the Saturday incident, but several days of taunting and badmouthing on Twitter followed, leading up to the Feb. 19 basketball game, investigators said.

To discourage any fighting after the basketball game, Methuen High students were allowed to leave the Haverhill High gym first and six extra police officers were stationed in the high school’s front parking lot when the game let out about 9 p.m.

The extra officers were first looking for problems in the school’s front parking lot. But students had gathered in a parking lot behind the school, where several fights between small groups of students broke out. The officers saw students scuffling and stepped in to break it up, Pistone said.

“About 200 kids were out of control,” Pistone said. “Several groups were fighting throughout the crowd.”

The crowd began to break up only after officers began arresting “the most aggressive” students, Pistone said.

After the arrests, the crowd broke up, but the back and forth on Twitter, in an often brash and vulgar style, continued in the following days.

Scully said he was outside during the incident and commended Haverhill police for the “constraint they used, given the abusive manner in which they were treated.”

At the time of the fights, Scully said any Haverhill student involved would suffer the consequences outlined in the high school’s student handbook and warned of further disciplinary action.

Police said that during the brawl, 18-year-old Drazelle Fernald of Haverhill fought with 17-year-old Marissa Shaw of Methuen, and while Shaw was on the ground, Fernald kicked her in the mouth. Both were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, while Fernald was also charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot.

Judge Patricia Dowling issued Fernald a 60-day warning at her arraignment on the assault and battery charge, meaning if she gets in trouble with the law while her case is pending, she could be held for up to 60 days without bail. As a condition of her release, Fernald was given an 8 p.m. curfew.

Steven Dileo, 18, and Angel Geigel, 17, both of Methuen, were charged with disorderly conduct. Geigel was also charged with resisting arrest. Police said when they attempted to arrest Geigel, he tried to pull away from them and acted in an “aggressive manner,” forcing them to subdue him.

Court officials said Shaw, Dileo and Geigel were accepted into a Youthful Diversion Program run by Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office.

The program provides first-time offenders the opportunity to receive services in lieu of being prosecuted through the traditional court process. Two 16-year-old Methuen boys and one 16-year-old Haverhill boy also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. They were also accepted into the juvenile diversion program, a spokesperson for the office said.

Staff writer Douglas Moser contributed to this report.