DHS students suspended after food fight

Darien High School students whipped up a batch of chaos during a food fight last Friday that resulted in suspensions.

In less than a minute, food was launched across cafeteria tables, tumbled in the air and accurately found its targets, before school officials put an end to the fiasco.

Rumors have circulated that roughly 80 students were suspended in the aftermath of the food fight, but Darien High School principal Ellen Dunn said that number was on the "high end."

Dunn could not comment on exactly how many students were suspended, but said none of the suspensions will impact the students' participation in graduation.

Normally, the seniors concoct a "senior prank" for the end of the school year, but they are normally on a smaller scale than the food fight, Dunn said.

An investigation followed the culinary conflict, including review of video surveillance, meetings with teachers and students, and consultation with School Resource Officer James Palmieri.

The aftermath of a food fight that erupted in the cafeteria at Darien High School on Friday, May 30.
The aftermath of a food fight that erupted in the cafeteria at Darien High School on Friday, May 30.Contributed Photo/Contributed

"(The students) might have considered this `food fight' to be an end-of-the-year prank, but its potential to cause injury required that we respond in a serious manner," Dunn said in a statement.

There was one minor injury reported, Dunn said, but could not provide specifics.

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She told parents in an email last week that it was evident the food fight was planned in advance and that words could not express her disappointment in the students.

"The students involved showed utter disregard for their school community and put others at risk," Dunn told parents.

"It was a food fight that no one thought would actually take off," said one female senior. "Everyone thought it would be awkward and no one would throw anything."

Then someone yelled "food fight" and lunch started flying, the senior said. She grabbed her salad and threw it, though it didn't hit anyone.

But everyone else, she said, was throwing food left and right. There were muffins, chips and sandwiches flying through the air.

"Basically anything you can think of was thrown," she said.

The meal melee lasted for a 45 seconds, she said, adding that it was one of the most fun experiences she's had while at Darien High School.

One junior student said the food fight included mostly seniors.

"We have a pretty rambunctious senior class who's notorious for trouble making, and they were definitely responsible for organizing and planning this beforehand," said a male junior. "It was definitely pre-meditated."

Students said some athletes were suspended, but Athletic Director Chris Manfredonia said he wouldn't comment on the food fight.

Reprimanded students had the option of either serving one day of out-of-school suspension with 10 hours of community service or three days of out-of-school suspension, students said.

Nick DeMaio, Darien High School physical trainer and head softball coach -- whose office is right by the cafeteria -- said he was unaware the fight was even happening because of how quickly it was squelched.

DeMaio said the cafeteria was closed for 15 minutes while the janitorial staff cleaned up the remnants of the grub barrage.

"Unfortunately, (the students) are exposed to a lot of this in movies and entertainment and I don't think they really think through all the way to the end for potentials for harm or potential for a danger situation," Dunn said.

"This situation compromised the safety of our school community and the students involved will be held accountable for their actions," Dunn wrote.

"The faculty and the administration of Darien High School feel the effects of this event in a very personal way because we hold our students in such high regard," Dunn wrote to parents. "I expect that the majority of our students will find a way to respond to this event by demonstrating their pride in their school and their dismay at the behavior of those involved."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews