CINCINNATI — One man hit another while newly graduated kindergarten students were celebrating with punch and cookies, triggering a melee that involved up to 20 people and resulted in the lockdown of an elementary school near Cincinnati, authorities said Tuesday.
Mount Healthy Schools Superintendent Lori Handler said the lockdown was ordered Monday because parents were panicking and school officials wanted to make sure no one else wandered into the fight scene. She said some 150 children were with their families in the Mount Healthy North Elementary School cafeteria when the fight broke out over an apparent domestic dispute.
Other people began pushing and shoving in a mass near the cafeteria doors until several police cruisers arrived and officers began restoring order. Authorities said no one was seriously injured.
“People never cease to amaze me,” Handler said. “It was a beautiful ceremony, with grandparents, parents, the 5-year-olds … then out of the blue, the man hit another man in the face. I was absolutely shocked.”
Police were seeking Raymond Walker, 33, on charges of assault and inducing panic. No other arrests were made.
“It was horrible,” parent Kim Calai told WCPO-TV. “I’m standing there, and all of a sudden, this rush of people throwing punches is coming at me.”
She said her young son kept asking why the police came.
“To have something like that happen at a graduation is pretty pathetic,” Calai said.
A telephone message left Tuesday at Walker’s home was not immediately returned.
“We’re going to prosecute to the fullest extent possible,” Handler said. “We are sending a strong message that you cannot act that way around 5-year-old children.”
It’s not the first time an Ohio kindergarten graduation ceremony has erupted into trouble. Last year, Cleveland police said eight people were arrested after a fight broke out between two teenage girls at Michael R. White Elementary and families joined in. The school went into lockdown and patrol cars flocked to the scene. Police said at the time the melee was set off by spilled punch.