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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 9, 2006

Police arrest 10 in Campbell High fight

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

Police arrested Campbell High School students yesterday after a fight prompted officials to put the school under lockdown. Police said yesterday's brawl was not connected with recent disturbances inspired by a rivalry with students from Farrington High School in Kalihi.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Police were called to Campbell High School again yesterday to quell a disturbance, but they said a fight that led to the arrest of 10 students was not connected to a simmering dispute between Campbell and Farrington high schools.

The feud has led to two fights in the past two weeks and boiled over on Friday with a standoff involving about 100 students on an 'Ewa street corner.

Simultaneously yesterday, the Farrington principal authorized three students on her campus identified as leaders of the Kalihi faction to leave school to begin mediation with school and outside counselors to find the cause and settle the feud.

Counselors say Farrington students want to see the dispute end, and mediation between the two groups may occur as soon as tomorrow.

The dispute is considered unusual because it has lasted so long more than two weeks and has resulted in a level of threats and violence not seen in several years, school and police officials said. The situation has been fueled in part through comments and video posted on the Internet and has resulted in substantial disruption to both campuses.

"It's disruptive ... but we can't take these kinds of things lightly," said Department of Education safety and security officer Glen Tatsuno.

Yesterday, with a police helicopter flying overhead and a number of police units again on the Campbell grounds, both school communities were doing their best to quell any further disturbances.

Lt. Danny Ford responded with about a half-dozen other officers to a group fight on the Campbell campus after initial reports indicated a weapon might be involved, he said. No weapon was found, but Ford said "what has been going on for the last two weeks" contributed to the size of the police response.

Ten students were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, said Ford. They were released later to their parents.

"If (students) are fighting in a public school, and police have to be called, they will get arrested," Ford said.

With tensions already high and inflamed by videos that had been posted on the Internet showing two fights between Farrington and Campbell students police and school officials are monitoring the situation closely.

The videos have now been removed, according to a counselor close to the situation.

"We're looking at this as a big red warning flag," said Farrington principal Catherine Payne of the conflict between the schools.

"Many years ago, these were not uncommon events, and we had moved away from that for a long time."

Campbell principal Gail Awakuni said earlier this week that such serious disputes also had become a thing of the past on her campus.

"Even the rest of the staff said this hasn't happened for a long time," said Awakuni.

Though the incidents last week took place mostly off campus, they created huge disruptions for both schools, as police officers from the Weed and Seed unit visited the campuses to talk to the students involved, and vice principals and counselors spent hours trying to track the cause and quell rumors.

"The psychological, emotional effect on people, whether staff or students, will shake their feeling of being safe," said Tatsuno of the incidents.

"It raises the emotions of kids, good and bad. Some react with fear, and (for) other kids, it raises their fighting spirit."

Payne said such a dispute is a challenge for the schools and the community at large.

"If we don't divert it," she said, "four or five years from now, we're going to have a lot more people in prison or a lot more houses broken into."

For student Shantel Smith, a junior at Campbell, the events did not elicit a sense of fear about coming to school this week though a rumor about weapons being brought to the area was frightening. And parent Joe Chapin, who comes to the park across the street to watch his daughter play baseball, said the information he got about the two schools fighting was a worry to him as a parent.

"Nothing's going to change unless the parents are involved," said his wife, Luana Chapin, and he agreed.

"It has to start at home," he said.

Education officials are focused on keeping disruptions from spreading to other schools. And a key private youth counseling agency assisting the schools worried that the conflicts could be linked to the growth of a new kind of teenage gang that crosses ethnic lines and is often focused on those who live in the same neighborhood.

Sid Rosen, who heads the private counseling service Adult Friends For Youth that's handling mediation between the two schools, has seen a rise in neighborhood-centered gangs in the last four years but said he doesn't yet know if that plays a role in the conflict between Farrington and Campbell.

"A major problem is the failure to acknowledge gangs exist," said Rosen, whose counselors have worked extensively in the 'Ewa and Kalihi areas in the past and are known and respected. But Rosen also said his group's intensive work with gangs in the two areas has diminished in the last six or seven years as financing has declined.

Farrington's Payne also sees a rise in neighborhood-centered gangs in the Kalihi area.

"When I got worried was last year when I started seeing a lot more in-your-face graffiti where we hadn't seen any. ... Certain names are coming up and certain groups are 'tagging,' saying this is my territory," she said.

"In the past we've had conflicts between the different housing kids, but they're coming together for this the honor of Kalihi," said Payne. "It's all overlapping gangs. We're hoping when all this is over, they'll all be friends over here."

DOE security officer Tatsuno hesitated to label the disturbances gang-related, although the police department has involved its gang detail.

Payne said the group involved in the dispute grew because of "threats going back and forth" and the growing number of connections the kids are making with friends.

"So many kids are involved now, and they don't really know why. It's almost like entertainment," she said. "They're excited, and that's what gets us worried. You get all these kids, and they're not thinking rationally."

Farrington officials have a list of about 20 students who are involved.

Tatsuno said department officials are still trying to get to the bottom of events Friday that lured as many as 100 student spectators to an 'Ewa street corner to see a fight between Campbell and Farrington students that never materialized.

Farrington students arrived on a city bus, but they were taken out of the community by counselors from Rosen's group who intervened.

Tatsuno also worried that comments and videos posted on Internet blogs are fueling more reaction, just as the video posting of a fight between students at a park helped incite events Friday and has continued to do so.

"The kids visit a lot of those sites, and if there's challenges and so forth, if they're related to it, it's going to incite them," he said.

"Right now, what we're trying to do is stem the tide so that it doesn't escalate to greater levels. There's always that possibility."

Police Maj. Michael Tamashiro, of the police department's Kapolei station, also says the video posting has made a difference in escalating the conflict between the schools.

"We have fights now and then," he said. "But not to this extent, where it extends for a week."

Staff writer Loren Moreno contributed to this report.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.