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Gang Fight Empties School

September 17, 1985

PRINCETON, W.Va. (AP) _ About 600 of the 950 pupils at a city junior high school were kept home Tuesday by parents afraid of racial fights, despite assurances by school officials that the situation was under control.

About 350 at Princeton Junior High School showed up for class after what began last week as a fight between two white students escalated by Monday into a confrontation between groups of white and black students, said Principal Irene Pauley.

She said four white students believed responsible for the outbreak were rounded up by police and brought to the school for disciplinary action. Ms. Pauley said the students would receive the maximum nine day suspension and that she would ask that they be expelled.

″Originally, it was just a fight between two white boys Friday afternoon,″ Ms. Pauley said. ″An assistant principal walked over and they stopped, but there was a black boy standing by and he called them ‘chickens.’

″The white boys turned around and they said to him, ’I’d rather be that than a black,‴ she said.

At a school dance Saturday, Ms. Pauley said a group of older white students had challenged several black students to a fight over the matter.

She said six parents told her they received weekend telephone calls warning them that their children would be beaten at school.

Before school Monday, Ms. Pauley said, eight blacks playing basketball in the gymnasium were surrounded by about six white males who threatened to use Mace, a tear gas that temporarily stuns its victims.

Ms. Pauley said coaches and other teachers broke up the fight and that the white students fled before police were called.

″The parents of some of the black students took their kids home until we could round up the other students to discipline them,″ she said. ″But word got out about it and the wild rumors started spreading. One child even told her mother that they (the fighting students) had chains and knives.

Mercer County Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jack Martin said classes were being held as scheduled. Both he and Ms. Pauley said the school was quiet Tuesday and that no further confrontations were expected.

Ms. Pauley said the school population was less than 10 percent black.

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