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Ferndale

October 2, 2013

Multiple Digital Learning Center students arrested following fights

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

FERNDALE — Six students from the Digital Learning Center in Ferndale were arrested Sept. 19 after three separate fights that resulted in an administrator with a broken leg and a police officer involved in an incident with a student.

At about 11:50 a.m. Sept. 19, a fight broke out in the cafeteria of the school, which is housed in the Taft Education Center, 427 Allen Road. The fight was between two female students, whom police identified as Joyce Robinson, 19, and a 15-year-old minor.

An administrative staff member was in the area, and while trying to break up the fight, the 15-year-old allegedly swung at the staff member and stomped on his lower leg, causing it to break.

“The fight between the two girls was believed to have started because one girl bumped the other one coming out of the bathroom,” Police Chief Timothy Collins said. “One of the administrators tried to break up the fight, and he was taking one of the young ladies to the ground, and the other person who was fighting kept trying to get into the fight. During that particular engagement, she stomped on the employee’s leg and it ultimately ended up being broken.”

Another fight broke out following the initial fight involving, allegedly, three students — Deante Sullivan, 17; Yolanda Dinkins, 17; and another minor.

“It is high school and, sometimes, (the students) fight over the silliest things,” Collins said. “Once the group got fired up, the second fight started, and you can surmise someone said something about people fighting and that sparked an additional fight over probably the original fight, as silly as it sounds.”

All five of the students in the two fights in the cafeteria were arrested, with the two minors being handed over to their parents with charges pending. Dinkins, Sullivan and Robinson were all charged with resisting and assaulting police, while Dinkins was additionally charged with two counts of assault and battery.

At 3:35 p.m. the same day, the school resource officer observed two men fighting near the entrance of the building. The officer observed a school staff member trying to break up the fight by removing one of the students, whom police identified as Jaylen Duren, 18, but Duren allegedly began fighting with the staff member.

The officer became involved, and Duren allegedly ended up fighting with the officer before another officer arrived, handcuffed Duren and placed him under arrest for resisting and obstructing a police officer and assault and battery.

Ferndale Board of Education President Jim O’Donnell sent out a letter to the community following the fights in which he explained the situation and discussed steps the district was taking to minimize the arrests, especially at the DLC. The district declined to comment beyond the letter.

“Ferndale Public Schools officials take all fights seriously. The students involved will be held accountable for their actions by the school district and in the justice system, while being provided with due process,” O’Donnell wrote. “District officials have put steps in place at the Digital Learning Center to minimize fights and to protect the neighborhood. These include the presence of a police officer, security at the door, building a positive school culture with strong student-teacher relationships, building relationships with the neighborhood association and providing students with the services they need to focus on education.

“In this case, the DLC staff and the school resources officer worked together to stop the fights, and the involved students were taken into custody by police.”

On Sept. 17, another arrest was made after an 18-year-old, whom police identified as Miles Lindsey, tried to enter the DLC building during restricted hours. As a Ferndale police officer tried to investigate the smell of marijuana coming from the man, he ran from the school and knocked over a woman in the neighboring community while fleeing before he was stopped and arrested, police said.

O’Donnell said in the letter that starting Sept. 23, the district replaced the injured administrator at the DLC, added another administrator to the school and added another security staff member.

“Every student deserves a safe and supportive learning environment,” he wrote. “Even one fight is too many for the students and staff who are involved or witness it. It is important to note that the Digital Learning Center and other Ferndale Public Schools do not have more frequent, nor more intense, fights than do other high schools, in general.

“Since launching the Digital Learning Center in September 2012, the school district has worked to build a positive school culture at the DLC, while also emphasizing the districtwide code of conduct, providing additional security and have the presence of a school resources officer.”

Attorney Somchit Mounsamrouath-Hart, representing Robinson, and attorney Andrew Kowalkowski, representing Dinkins, declined to comment on the case. Attorneys Leesa Frederick, Lyle Harris and Malita Barrett, representing Sullivan, Duren and Lindsey, respectively, could not be reached for comment.

Collins said the Ferndale police are talking with the school district on a daily basis, as the department has a school resources officer at the Digital Learning Center and one for Ferndale and University high schools.

As was the case with the arrest Sept. 17, Collins said the police cannot predict how students will react, and incidents may occasionally spill into the neighboring communities.

“You can’t foresee every single contingency, and there is always the potential of something inside spilling into the neighborhood, but that is not the norm,” he said.

“The norm is the incident occurs inside, and it lives and dies there and won’t spill out. Like we saw earlier that week, however, a kid got away from the police and ran into the neighborhoods, and you can’t predict that, but that is something that can occur at any school,” he said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.