Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Public safety

Answer: 37. Question: How many deputies did it take to break up a Wharton High brawl Thursday?

TAMPA — It took 37 deputies to break up a brutal student brawl at Wharton High School Wednesday, but Hillsborough County sheriff’s officers say that fight was just the latest to erupt on two high school campuses this month.

One student spat on a deputy when he intervened in a fight on Wednesday. Last week, students at Tampa Bay Technical High School kept fighting even after they were pepper sprayed.

In all, 24 students have been arrested for fighting at Wharton and Tampa Bay Tech in just six days.

"While it is unclear what the motivations behind the incidents were, it is believed that neighborhood issues between individual students have been spilling onto the campus," spokesman Danny Alvarez said.

The fighting at Wharton High School, located at 20150 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., began on Friday when a brawl involving 20 students broke out on the bus ramp at the end of the school day. That fight ended with 11 student arrests, with charges pending a review of school surveillance videos, the Sheriff’s Office said.

On Tuesday, school administrators broke up four large brawls among students. Multiple patrol units were stationed at the high school throughout the day to tamp flaring tempers before they ignited yet another campus brawl. Seven students were arrested on charges of affray/disruption of a school function, and one faces an additional battery charge, the agency said.

Still, there were three more student arrests at Wharton stemming from two fights the following Wednesday. One student spat on a deputy who attempted to talk him out of starting another fight.

Deputies also responded Wednesday to a violent fight between three students at Tampa Bay Technical High School, located at 6410 Orient Road. After multiple warnings and physical attempts to break up the fight, the three students were pepper sprayed by a responding deputy. Only one ran to the school office, while the other two continued to fight until they were tackled.

The escalating violence at the two public schools came to a head during the melee Wednesday afternoon at Wharton High. Dozens of deputies, school resource officers and even supervisors were called away from other duties to break up the fight.

The Sheriff’s Office maintained an escalated presence at Wharton throughout the day Thursday. Students were also released at varying times by a staggered bell schedule at the end of the school day.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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