By the end of the day, 25 of the students, ages 11 to 15, had been rounded up, arrested, taken from school and put in jail. A spokesman for the Chicago police said the charges were reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.
That was last Thursday afternoon. Now parents are questioning what seem to them like the criminalization of age-old adolescent pranks, and the lasting legal and psychological impact of the arrests.
"My children have to appear in court," Erica Russell, the mother of two eighth-grade girls who spent eight hours in jail, said Tuesday. "They were handcuffed, slammed in a wagon, had their mug shots taken and treated like real criminals."
"They're all scared," Ms. Russell said of the two dozen arrested students. "You never know how children will be impacted by that. I was all for some other kind of punishment, but not jail. Who hasn't had a food fight?". . .
Diana Shulla-Cose, president and co-founder of Perspectives Charter Schools, said that an on-campus police officer had called for backup as the food fight escalated and that the resulting heavy police presence had led in turn to the large number of arrests. Ms. Shulla-Cose described the entire episode as "unfortunate" and added, "We don't take this lightly."
She also said the school was working individually with the families of students who were arrested to support them through a difficult time, and through the process of getting the youths back to classes.