Whitehall-Coplay Press

Monday, February 24, 2020

Juveniles charged

Wednesday, February 5, 2020 by Kelly Lutterschmidt klutterschmidt@tnonline.com in Local News

Inciting riot is a felony

The four juveniles involved in the incident Jan. 28 at Whitehall High School, in which area police removed what they called “disruptive” students, have been charged in juvenile court with numerous offenses, including inciting a riot — a felony.

A hearing was held Jan. 29 at Lehigh County Courthouse. Members of the media could not be present. According to reports, the juveniles have also been charged with defiant trespass, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of the administration of the law, all misdemeanors, and are under house arrest.

Two WHS boys basketball games were canceled Jan. 28 after the students reportedly became disruptive and police were called, according to a statement released by the Whitehall-Coplay School District.

According to Dr. Lorie Hackett, superintendent of WCSD, “The Whitehall-Coplay School District is currently investigating the incident. The information we have at this time indicates the school district’s athletic director, in maintaining safety, acted appropriately in asking students to leave an unsupervised area in the high school during the basketball game.

“After several unsuccessful attempts to get the students to leave the unsupervised area and return to the gym, they were then asked to leave the event,” Hackett said.

Whitehall Township police officers were then asked to assist. The juveniles refused numerous requests by officers to leave, police said. When officers attempted to take the juveniles into custody, they were surrounded by other juveniles who “physically attempted to block the officers from a lawful arrest,” according to Whitehall Police Lt. Gregory Bealer.

Officers from multiple agencies responded to assist in controlling the area.

Bealer said the four juveniles were then taken into custody.

As a precaution, police were on campus Jan. 29. The basketball games, which were rescheduled for that night as well, also had increased police presence.

“Once the Whitehall Township police officer became involved and, given his experience, assessed the safety of the situation, he then independently made the decision to call for additional support,” Hackett said. “The Whitehall-Coplay School District has a very close working relationship with the Whitehall Township police, and we respect their decisions in maintaining a safe environment for our school.”

Bealer was unable to give additional information regarding the case because it had been moved to juvenile court.

According to the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office, “Because this involved juveniles, no information can be released until a petition has been filed.”

A petition will be filed by an attorney from the DA’s office.

According to a statement released by Hackett, “The primary goal of the district is to ensure safety for our students and school community at all of our events. Moving forward, school district officials will determine if any changes in facilities or protocols are necessary in order to continue to maintain a safe and secure environment, which is the number one priority of the district.”

When asked if the students faced disciplinary action by the WCSD, Hackett declined to comment.