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When lights go out, students fling food

Bay Point Middle parents say fighting amid Tuesday's blackout highlights a larger issue.

By Abhi Raghunathan and Thomas C. Tobin, Times Staff Writers
Published February 28, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG - After the lights went out at Bay Point Middle School Tuesday afternoon during a statewide power outage, the food began to fly.

A large food fight broke out in the cafeteria, according to a police report.

Unruly students spilled into the hallways.

And one 13-year-old boy was attacked by several girls, who kicked him, punched him and bloodied his nose.

Gail Manner, 51, said her son David, 13, and his circle of friends had been bullied by a small group of girls for months because he and his friends wear tight pants and color their hair. She said food had been thrown at her son during the ruckus, and that an apple hit his girlfriend in the head.

Manner said she was upset at school officials and may send her son to a different school.

"It was completely out of control," she said. "They told me that it was an isolated incident, that everything's going to stay the same."

Police classified David Manner's injury as minor; the only treatment required was an ice pack for his nose. Police say the girls may have targeted Manner because they thought he threw food at them; Manner's mother said that wasn't the case.

A possible misdemeanor charge of simple battery was referred to the State Attorney's Office against one of the girls. The girl is not being named because she is a minor. Police are still investigating.

Some parents said the fight is representative of their concerns with discipline issues at the school. Fights were the leading cause for suspensions in Pinellas middle schools last school year. The district reported 1,242 middle school suspensions for fighting in 2006-07.

"Anybody who sends their kids there or teaches there should be concerned about their health, education and welfare," said Joe Hausen, 46, who has a 13-year-old daughter at the school.

District spokeswoman Andrea Zahn gave a written response to the parent comments: "The school has new leadership and the principal has not been contacted by parents with concerns about the school environment. In fact, she has received positive feedback about the climate at the school this year."

[Last modified February 27, 2008, 23:28:13]

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