April 24, 2003 at 7:56 PM CDT - Updated June 20 at 1:05 PM
Murphsysboro HS Melee By: Kate Scott
(Murphsyboro, IL) -- Fights, scuffles and disagreements happen in most every school, most every day. But not all of them end up like the rumble in one Heartland school!
Wednesday got off to a rocky start in Murphysboro High School, when a group of students got in a fight, and later got escorted out of the building in handcuffs! It happened around 8:30 Wednesday morning, before classes even started.
Murphysboro High School Principal Mark Bullock tells Heartland News that the fight was racially motivated. He says a white student and a black student had gotten in a fight on Tuesday over racial issues. They then gathered their friends behind them on Wednesday morning, where the two sides squared off in a school hallway.
Bullock says school officials had done what they could to get the two sides to work things out on Tuesday, and had even sent kids home when it the mediation didn’t seem to be working. Then when the fight broke out on Wednesday, with words and fists flying inside the building, he says the school had no choice but to call police.
Luckily, Bullock says, no weapons were involved and no one was hurt. But ten students were arrested and charged with mob action, which is a class-4 felony in the state of Illinois. Five of the students were charged as juveniles, while five were charged as adults. Those facing adult charges are 17-year old Max McKimmy, 18-year old Derek Taylor, 17-year old Jeffery Maes, 17-year old Glenn Stokes, and 17-year old Jacob Worthen.
Wednesday night, Worthen’s family was visiting him at the Jackson County Jail. His sister, Mandy Gossage, says it’s not where she expected him to end up when he left for school on Wednesday morning. "The principal called me yesterday and told me to come pick up my brother so a fight wouldn't break out," she tells Heartland News. "I picked him up yesterday from school at 12:30. Then this happened today!"
Twenty-three year old Gossage says there’s been a history of racial issues in the school since before she was a student there several years ago. Now she worries about what may come next. "A lot of them are wanting revenge when they get out of here (jail), and I don’t want that to happen," she says. "That’s not going to solve anything. What needs to happen is the community needs to come together and agree on something. Otherwise, it’s going to be ongoing."
Principal Bullock says he held a school assembly after the fight on Wednesday afternoon, in order to let other students know what was going on, and to remind them that Murphysboro High School is a place for students to learn. If they choose not to, he says they'll face the consequences. In addition to the criminal charges, Bullock says each of the students arrested will also face some type of school suspension.
So what’s next for the students within the criminal justice system? All ten will face that class 4 felony charge of mob action. Police released the five juveniles to their parents’ custody, but the kids still have to face the charge in juvenile court. The suspects charged as adults were booked in the Jackson County Jail pending a bond appearance. In the state of Illinois, "mob action" could carry a punishment of one to three years in jail.
Murphysboro police are still working on their investigation, but did confirm that the fight may have been racially motivated. They also say they haven't ruled out more arrests.