LITTLETON, Colo. – Less than two months before the third anniversary of the Columbine school shootings, deputies rushed to the high school again — to quell a food fight that authorities say was a near riot.
After one student was arrested for throwing a pie Friday, 400 students screamed and yelled at deputies in protest, said Jim Shires, spokesman for the Jefferson County's Sheriff's office. Three additional students were arrested.
School administrators learned that a food fight was planned and tried to discourage it, said Marilyn Saltzman, spokeswoman for Jefferson County schools.
When students were seen entering the school carrying Jell-O, tapioca pudding, pies and yogurt, "we asked the kids to go outside and not have a food fight in the school. The principal and assistant principal went outside to talk with them and try to defuse the situation," said Saltzman.
Junior Keith Kinsella said the student was encouraged to start the food fight.
"It was more like a taunting," said Kinsella, 16. "They dared Scott (Streeb) to throw the pie and he did. I personally believe they mistreated Scott."
There were conflicting reports on who was hit by the pie; some students said a campus supervisor was hit and others said it was a coach.
Kinsella said school officials have been too zealous about avoiding any violence because of the April 20, 1999 assault that left 12 students, one teacher and two teen gunmen dead.
"They check the parking lot all the time. When they found a baseball bat in my car they threatened me with six months jail time and a $1,500 fine," Kinsella said Saturday.
"They are way over the top on security," said Austin Rabinoff, 15, a sophomore. "Unless there was something I didn't see, the whole thing was too much. It was a prank. It didn't need that many police officers."
The four students arrested Friday were released on bond ranging from $750 to $1,000 posted by their parents. Streeb, 18, was accused of throwing the pie that was to trigger the food fight. Streeb, Ryan Morrill, 18, and Justin Norman, 18, and a juvenile who name was not released face possible misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, harassment, and inciting to riot.
Phone numbers for the arrested students could not be obtained Saturday.
Saltzman said the timing of the incident — lunch hour — contributed to the large number of students involved. The high school has about 1,800 students.
"It was not a totally a harmless prank. It was potentially unsafe situation. The administration was definitely disappointed about how the kids acted," she said.