Crime & Courts

Charges recommended for 20 students involved in Anchorage’s West High School fight, officials say

Charges were forwarded to the Department of Juvenile Justice for 20 students following brawls at West High School on Monday that placed the school and nearby Romig Middle School into stay-put mode for several hours.

About as many students were suspended and school administrators are continuing to investigate the incident, Principal Sven Gustafson said Tuesday.

Several fights erupted at lunchtime in the cafeteria, some spilling into the hallways, Gustafson said. A school resource officer immediately called for assistance and other Anchorage police officers responded to the school within minutes, he said.

“We had a lot of police officers show up, I had a lot of staff members show up and each person dealt with a kiddo and moved them aside and got them out of the situation,” he said.

No weapons were involved and there were no major injuries, Gustafson said. He saw one minor injury and said paramedics were called to the school as a precaution.

Students were told to report to their fourth-period classes, where they remained in a stay-put mode for the rest of the day. From start to finish, Gustafson estimates the fighting and mayhem were under control in roughly 10 minutes.

Officials are still investigating what caused the fight, he said. There was no indication that the violence was gang related or tied to a recent fight at another school, Gustafson said.

Charges were forwarded to the Department of Juvenile Justice for 20 students, including charges for disorderly conduct, engaging in fighting and assault, said School Resource Officer Sgt. Rayne Reynolds.

There has never been an incident of this size at West High School, Gustafson said.

“West High is normally a pretty chill place to be. Normally we know our kids and we know what’s going on, and this one just got kind of out of hand — it just happened,” he said.

Additional police were at the school Tuesday out of precaution, Gustafson said. Additional threats that circulated on social media were investigated, he said in an email to families Tuesday.

School officials addressed students Tuesday morning, and Gustafson said there will likely be more conversations with parents and students going forward. He said he’s disappointed by the violence and wants students to know that they are safe and can talk to staff about any problems.

“One of our goals is always to make sure every kid has somebody that they can talk to,” he said “... We have counselors here, we have teachers here. If you’re sitting in front of a teacher, talk to that teacher. If there’s something going on, if you’re feeling bummed, you need to decompress or anything, talk to the teachers. Talk to us. We’re available.”

A number of rumors spread on social media about the incident Monday, said Anchorage School District spokeswoman Lisa Miller. The misinformation hampered the district’s efforts to put out accurate information, she said.

“Going directly to your school is really the best way to get accurate information, and when you’re sharing and commenting, it’s essentially spreading misinformation when there’s rumors online,” she said.