Scott High School is hardly the first place where fights have broken out in the stands.
But what happened on Friday night, according to several people who spoke at a Tuesday news conference, has a stigma attached to it because the ensuing melee was at Scott, a predominantly black school with a rough-and-tumble reputation.
While officials continued their investigation into whether security at the final varsity boys basketball game of the 2012-13 regular season overreacted by releasing pepper spray on the crowd while breaking up the fight, several students spoke up in defense of Scott.
They said the school, which celebrates its centennial this year, has been a game-changer in their lives.
Fredrick Golden, a 15-year-old Scott sophomore, said his life has “turned around” because of a support group he learned about at Scott, the Student African American Brotherhood.
He is one of 400 students at 16 schools in the Toledo district who meet weekly through that program to discuss how to avoid the temptations of the street, how to study for classes, and how to write resumes, interview, establish nonprofits, and manage finances.
A similar support group exists for girls, Young Women of Excellence. Students said they make learning cool, fending off some of the peer pressure that inhibits youths.
“Once I got into SAAB, my life turned around,” the Golden teen said. “It takes stereotypical black men to where we want to go and where we want to be.”
Romules Durant, an assistant superintendent for the school district, said the goal of those support groups is to “promote confidence and success.”
About 25 students attended the news conference in support of Scott. Between testimonials, they joined Mr. Durant in reverberating chants, such as “We walk into a room, we own the room!” and “Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.”
“You are seeing leaders here who say ‘No more,’ ” Mr. Durant said. “If there’s ever a time for the image of Scott to change, let’s start today.”
The fights caused an abrupt halt to Scott’s game against Rogers High School with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Rogers led 59-45 and was declared the winner.
At least two fights, both between a pair of women, broke out. One led to the arrest of a female Scott student and a female student from Waite High School. One police report said pepper spray was deployed on the crowd to quell the disturbance; another said mace. Both are irritants. Mace is a tear gas. A major manufacturer of pepper spray is Mace Security International.
Senior Bryson Collins, 18, a power forward on Scott’s basketball team, said he didn’t want his final home game as a Bulldog to end that way.
“It hurt to see Scott talked about negatively,” he said. He and another senior, Bryan Pinkney, 18, raved about the television broadcasting studio at Scott. They said it has given them the experience they need to pursue broadcasting in college.
One former Scott student, Toledo Board of Education member Larry Sykes, encouraged students to remain proud of their school in the face of adversity.
“I stand before you to let you know there is a God,” Mr. Sykes said, an apparent reference to how he felt he was once an at-risk youth.
A former state amateur boxing champ, Mr. Sykes tearfully described himself as a “community baby” while a panelist at a Lucas County fatherhood summit in September, 2010.
He didn’t go into as much detail Tuesday, but alluded to his background when he talked about growing up without a father and having his mother give him away.
Toledo Board of Education President Brenda Hill said she was “busting with pride” at how Scott students spoke up for their school.
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6079.