Probe reveals allegations of cage fighting at school
DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas school system was rocked by allegations Thursday that staff members at an inner-city high school made students settle their differences by fighting bare-knuckle brawls inside a steel cage.
The principal and other employees at South Oak Cliff High knew about the cage fights and allowed the practice to continue, according to a 2008 report by school system investigators.
“More than anything, I’m in shock and disbelief — shocked that this could ever occur and shocked that it would be condoned by a professional administrator,” said Jerome Garza, a member of the Dallas school board.
The report, first obtained by The Dallas Morning News, describes two instances of fighting in an equipment cage in a boys locker room between 2003 and 2005. It was not clear from the report whether there were other fights.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told the newspaper that there were “some things that happened inside of a cage” and called the fights “unacceptable.”
No criminal charges were ever filed, and there was no mention in the report of whether anyone required medical attention or whether any employees were disciplined. A district spokesman would not comment.
The allegations came to light during a grade-fixing investigation that eventually cost the high school its 2005 and 2006 state basketball titles. School officials were suspected of altering students’ grades so that they could remain eligible to play for South Oak Cliff, a perennial basketball powerhouse in one of the poorer sections of the city.
In an interview with the Morning News, Donald Moten, who retired as principal last year, denied any fights took place.
“That’s barbaric. You can’t do that at a high school. You can’t do that anywhere,” Moten said. “Ain’t nothing to comment on. It never did happen. I never put a stop to anything because it never happened.”
“It was gladiator-style entertainment for the staff,” Frank Hammond, a fired counselor who has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the district, told the newspaper. “They were taking these boys downstairs to fight. And it was sanctioned by the principal and security.”
Hammond did not actually witness any of the fights, according to the report.