A Sumter middle school will have an increased police presence today after a fight on school grounds Thursday, which resulted in eight students facing charges and disciplinary action.
The students were involved in an after-school altercation at Chestnut Oaks Middle School, according to Sumter School District. The incident started in a commons area where students were gathering after classes had been dismissed, and officers called to the scene described several fights between individuals occurring at once.
Law enforcement officers from both the Sumter Police Department and Sumter County Sheriff's Office responded.
No serious injuries were reported from the altercation, according to the sheriff's office, which is investigating.
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The juveniles involved, whose names and ages have not been released, will be charged with disturbing schools and will also face disciplinary action by the school district. All students were released to the custody of their parents after order was restored.
A press release from the school district described the fight as "allegedly gang related," but Sheriff Anthony Dennis said late Thursday he wasn't prepared to say gangs were involved.
"The only thing I've heard that it might be gang-related is that some territorial remarks were made" during the altercation, he said, adding the fight "was apparently motivated by something that started out on the street and then somebody retaliated at school."
Some of the students had to be physically restrained by officers. Dennis maintained none of his officers had to deploy Tasers in the incident.
In addition to the eight juveniles already facing charges in the incident, investigators will also try to identify other students who might have been involved. Those students could also face charges and disciplinary action by the district.
A school district spokesperson said the middle school will have heightened security when classes resume today "to help ensure a safe and orderly environment." The sheriff also said his office and Sumter police will take extra precautions next week during the final week of the school year.
"My officers have been instructed not to jeopardize school safety and to remove any individual who may pose a threat to any student," Dennis said. "We'll have a zero-tolerance policy."