UPDATE 7:00 PM: Here's a News-Times follow-up that focuses on community leaders and school officials defusing the situation.
School and community leaders Thursday downplayed the racial overtones of a fight Wednesday morning between black and Latino students at Danbury High School.
That incident occurred the day after a fight between two students on Tuesday that might have started over a girl or a racial slur.
According to Olivia Negron, a senior, the fight was touched off Tuesday when one male student inappropriately touched another, a female, in the school's cafeteria.
Others intervened and a fight broke out, she said.
The following day, Wednesday, the two groups fought again, only this time friends from both sides jumped into the fracas, Negron said.
"There was a rumor that led to a fight that led to a fight that led to a rumor that because there was no school today, (of the fight) possibly spilling into the street," said Ingrid Alvarez-Dimarzo, director of the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury.
"Here is social media and people, and now you got Dominican kids riling (up) other Dominican kids to go and fight black kids," she said. "But when you sit down and talk to them individually (you don't hear that)."
Alvarez-Dimarzo said that when word of the brawl got back to her, she got into her car to look for some of the students she had come to know in her time with the Hispanic Center.
She said that many of them had donned "Dominican Pride" T-shirts after school let out, making them easily identifiable.
"I talked to some of these kids yesterday. They're not looking to fight because someone's black," she said Thursday. "They're afraid of getting beaten up and they're angry."
According to Alvarez-Dimarzo, students were not attacked by virtue of their ethnicity, but in retaliation for the earlier fight.
"That only comes when kids don't have these support groups and so they try to create it on their own (with their friends)," she said. "Regardless of what side of the issue the adult community may find themselves, we still have the responsibility to help these kids process these issues."
UPDATE 12:00 PM: The following comment from a student at DHS in response to several racist and offensive comments made by others regarding the incident sheds some light on the underlying issue at the school.
no one cant judge dhs now if they dont know the whole story…. were not idiotic ethnic groups either. we stand up for our race and what we beleive in. no one told the dominicans to try and bum rush blacks, no body was thinking about the spanish boys until they decided to come after us. i know the whole story so what some of you people need to do is actually figure out the story in order to understand the meaning of the fights. DHS is now segregated !!! all do to dominicans and blacks!!! we standing up for our pride and we are also defending our lives. if a group of people were planning to fight you then yes, you would do the same everybody else did yesterday!!!
UPDATE 11:00: Here's Mark Langlois take on the incident (Danbury Patch):
A series of fights broke out Wednesday, and the school suspended 10 students who were involved.
"The individuals involved were disciplined or suspended," said Schools Superintendent Sal Pascarella, Ed.D. "We'll look into any other things that went on, but we already identified the main people involved."
Pascarella said it all started with a stupid comment, followed by more words, which turned into a fight.
"We don't think it was gang-related," Pascarella said. Once it started, staff patrolled the halls, as did members of the Danbury Police Department. "We want a unified front to stop this nonsense."
Pascarella said it isn't as though the school system is alone working on this fight. He said Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, executive director of the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury is working on it, as is Rev. Ivan Pitts of the New Hope Baptist Church. He said the Danbury Police Department patroled the parking lots to make sure nothing started up again there.
"There were no weapons, no injuries," Pascarella said. "We really all work together on this."
Danbury Hispanic Center Executive Director asked students to remain calm and un-involved.
UPDATE (Sept 29) 10:00 AM: Here's the latest from Eileen FitzGerald at the News-Times.
Danbury High School Principal Gary Bocaccio said 10 students were suspended Wednesday after a fight broke out in the morning, the day after a Hispanic freshman and a black freshman reportedly swapped racial epithets.
Bocaccio said more students would be questioned Friday, since school is closed Thursday for Rosh Hashana.
The students were suspended for varying amounts of time based on their involvement in the incident, but there were no weapons, no criminal charges and no offenses that could lead to expulsion, Bocaccio said Wednesday night.
He said there was an altercation Tuesday between two freshmen, a Dominican student and a black student.
Some other students told school officials that there might be some trouble, based on the incident, and staff asked to speak with some students Wednesday morning at the main office, Bocaccio said.
It was near the office that the fight broke out between the group of Latino and black students, Bocaccio said.
"The fight was broken up quickly. There were some scratches that nurses attended to immediately," he said. "We determined who was the instigator.''
UPDATE 11:45 PM: From what little I learned so far late tonight, multiple sources informed me that the fight seems to be between the Dominicans and African-Americans. With Thursday being a teacher in-service day, people are concerned that the fights that occurred at school could spill out into the streets...the most important thing now is for students to CALM DOWN!
I'll have more soon...
Just received some very disturbing news regarding racial violence at Danbury High School today.
Here's the video of two of several incidents that occurred at the High School today that's gone viral.
The Hispanic Center posted the following message to students at DHS on Facebook:
This post goes out to my Danbury High School youth! I want to talk to you, but more than talk I need you to listen to what I will ask of you. To the members of Trinidad I will say Dominicana Soy! But I will not excuse nor tolerate the use of ethnic pride for violence. I recognize your need for acknowledgement and respect. I am saddened by the incidents at DHS today. I've had the opportunity to meet with some of you this afternoon. Thank you for listening and thank you for taking the shirts off. For those that I haven't seen today-hear me out. Trinidad you have an open invitation to see me, talk to me and meet with me. I'm putting the ball in your court. My doors are open for conflict resolution. Use me as your vehicle. Allow me to hear and better understand what you are going through. No reprimands no accusations. But I need you to put weapons down-I need you to not use violence and gang intimidation tactics. Allow me to help you resolve this conflict. I will hear and not judge your side of the story. But I will ask of you this-no violence-call the fight off-do not allow one more friend to get hurt. To all other friends, please if you have access to DHS student community at home, in the community or any place else or even if you don't let's lead by example. Please share this post and help me reach every DHS student today.
Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury
Centro Hispano (203) 798-2855
I don't have all the details on what happened today but one thing is for certain...physical violence is NOT the answer. Danbury High has seen it's fair share of racial incidents in the past and the last thing this city needs is violence based on race spreading at the school.
I'll update everyone once I get more info...if any students have information on what happened or have video of any fights that broke out today, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or @hatcityblog on Twitter.
If your a student and are pissed off over what happened, PLEASE PLEASE take a DEEP breath and think things through before acting on your impulse. With tomorrow being a teacher in-service day, we don't want what happened at DHS to spill into the streets on Thursday.
The Hispanic Center is on high alert attempting to reach out to any DHS student who were effected by today's events. Contact them at 203.798.2855, You can also reach the Center on Facebook by clicking here.
PLEASE think b4 you act!