by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None —
Extra police and CMS security officers patrolled Harding University High School's campus on Friday, preparing for a protest in the school's open "quad" area.
By the end of the school day, several students had refused to attend class and CMS officials confirmed 15 students were suspended. School officials said they could not tell Eyewitness News how many of the suspensions may have been connected to the protest.
The protest stemmed from school officials canceling the homecoming pep rally scheduled for Friday afternoon. Police said it was an effort to keep students safe after reports of fights and concerns that students were flashing gang signs this week.
Matthas Jackson, who's in ninth grade, described a fight on Thursday.
"They were shouting their gang names and all that caused a big commotion, and they started a fight and stuff,” Jackson said.
Police have not confirmed the fights were gang-related. Students and parents said several fights in the past few weeks have been between students who formerly attended E. E. Waddell High School have been between students who formerly attended Waddell and students who have always attended Harding.
Parent Monique Young said she's worried for her daughter's safety.
"Apparently there was a fight with some boys and someone was jumped and there was a lot of blood," she said of a fight this week. "Every day she comes home and tells me about fighting."
Thursday night, students quickly planned a walkout protesting the rally's cancellation.
Police said they learned about the protest on Twitter via messages in which students talked about walking out during fourth block and making their "own pep rally."
Parents said they're sick of all the problems.
"I'm considering changing schools for my daughter," Young said.
According to CMPD police reports, this week there were two arrests for disorderly conduct at Harding University High School.