OGDEN — An argument over a milk carton has led to the suspension of nine ninth-graders and an investigation into a tutor.
Law enforcement and Ogden School District are investigating whether David Lopez, a part-time math and language arts tutor, hurt a 14-year-old boy when he and the boy got into a struggle, and what trouble the boy and his classmates may find themselves in.
It’s a rule at Highland Junior High School that students throw away their milk cartons by the end of lunch. On Wednesday, Lopez felt that a group of nine friends needed to come back and throw away a lone carton.
An argument started, particularly between him and the 14-year-old boy. The argument escalated into a struggle, by the end of which, two teens who were in the group say, the tutor had the boy in a headlock and pushed him against a wall.
The school’s resource officer brought the boy to the administrative offices. Every secondary school in the district has an Ogden officer assigned to handle safety issues at that school.
The 14-year-old was suspended, as were his eight friends, who police say were being disorderly. The eight were cited for rioting.
Police Lt. Scott Conley, who oversees the youth crimes division, said he expects the teens will ultimately only be charged with disorderly conduct after the investigation.
On the school side of matters, each student has an appointment with the district this Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss what happened in a due process hearing, said Donna Corby, district spokeswoman.
Corby said, in her five years, she cannot remember another time when so many students were suspended at once.
The school district is also investigating the tutor, as is Child Protective Services, because the 14-year-old’s parents filed a complaint about the incident with the Division of Child and Family Services.
It’s customary for Child Protective Services to get involved whenever a child may have been hurt, Corby said.
Two of the boy’s friends, who are among those suspended, said the boy had scratches and bruises.
They both felt mad that school staff would handle a student that way.
A few of their fellow classmates, who were not involved in the original incident, have been protesting the teens’ suspension.
Four ninth-graders have held a protest each lunch since the incident and plan to keep it up until their classmates are back at school.
The students leave an empty milk carton on a table as their form of protest, Corby said. She saw it for herself Friday.
Those students are not in trouble for leaving their milk cartons on the tables, Corby said, as they are exercising their right to protest.