ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Incidents at three separate high schools across Seminole and Orange counties resulted in at least 14 students arrested Thursday, police and family members told Eyewitness News.
Videos captured multiple unrelated brawls at Oviedo High School in the school yard, cafeteria and a classroom. Oviedo police said 12 students were arrested and likely faced charges of disrupting school operations.
“Apparently the fight started because someone ‘disrespected’ someone else,” Lt. Travis Cockcroft said.
A family member of a Dr. Phillips High School student sent videos of a fight there, saying that her nephew was arrested in the aftermath despite being a bystander and wondering why female students seen in the videos throwing each other to the ground in the videos were allowed to walk away.
Orlando police officials did not immediately respond to an email request to confirm the incident or arrest.
Finally, a student was arrested at Lyman High School after police said he wrote a note threatening a mass shooting on Friday.
Officials said the student was seen entering and leaving the restroom and his handwriting matched the note on the wall. He is facing a charge of threatening a mass shooting/terrorist act.
Seminole Education Association President Dan Smith said over time, he’s seen the nature of school fights and violence change.
“It’s not the way it used to be,” he said. “We’ve gotten from person against person to a lot more of the five against five, 10 against 10.”
That’s also combined with a jump in violent acts on school grounds. According to data from the Institute of Education Sciences, the number of students participating in fights or other non-fatal acts on campuses has been falling from a peak in the early 1990s, while school shooting incidents have been on the rise.
However, school officials nationwide are reporting surges in both gun- and non-gun related events since the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
“The baggage of the last year and a half is now getting dragged along with the kids to school,” National Association of School Resource Officers Executive Director Mo Canady explained.
Seminole County School District officials said it wasn’t surprising after putting young adults together in a confined and rule-oriented space after so much time away. Smith, however, said it extended to the youngest of students.
“I’m hearing from kindergarten, first grade, second grade. These kids are having outbursts, they’re pushing, they’re hitting other kids,” he said.
While he did not fault the district for the violence itself, he said there were two areas of improvement: better communication with parents and stricter punishments for offenders.
“They need discipline, they need consequences,” he said. “These are violent acts against children. In many cases, the employees and staff as well. It’s got to be dealt with.”
His sentiment was echoed by Oviedo High School’s principal.
“We are currently still in the process of thoroughly investigating some of the specifics of what occurred,” Dr. Trent Daniel wrote in an emailed statement. “One thing’s for certain and should be crystal clear to all of our students, we have zero tolerance for fighting.”