Cellphones implicated in school fights

In Milwaukee, school fights explode as gang members call in reserves to join melee. Adults who participate in school fights will now be charged as felons, DA says.

At first educators found them a mere distraction in the classroom, but now they're an outright menace as cellphones are being used to quickly call in reinforcements in school fights, reports the Chicago Sun Times

In one Milwaukee school, a fight rapidly swelled to about 20 family members on school grounds via cellphones. This altercation and others prompted Wisconsin's largest school district to ban cell phones in its 217 schools.

"We consider [cellphones] almost as weapons because when they call, we're the ones out in front, and we don't know these people are coming," said Mike Heese, safety security assistant at Bradley Tech High School, where the fight happened.

Prosecutors are also taking a tougher stance. Adults who harm anyone at a school could face felony charges, said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. In the past, offenders were merely fined for disorderly conduct.

The concern over cellphone use in the schools was limited to fears of cheating and being distracting in the classroom. But Milwaukee Public Schools have averaged about a fight a month in the last three years - and it's getting worse, said Peter Pochowski, the schools' director of safety and security.

There have always been fights at schools, and many schools have installed metal detectors and hired security guards to protect teachers and students. But using cellphones to call in reinforcements ups the ante considerably.

Jamilynn Brushel, an 18-year-old senior at Bradley Tech, said she would rather see strict security guards and teachers because students who want to fight will do so even without cell phones.