RALEIGH — Several Enloe High School students who were arrested during a water-balloon prank on campus earlier this month say they feel the charges should be dismissed.
Seven Enloe students face charges ranging from disorderly conduct to assault for the balloon-throwing incident that sent students running in panic on May 16. Advocates for the students say they also received short-term suspensions of up to 10 days from school.
But Wake County school officials, who initially said the balloons appeared to be filled only with water, said Thursday that they have reason to believe the balloons may also have been filled with substances such as urine.
Three students who spoke Thursday evening at a news conference at Martin Street Baptist Church maintain the balloons contained nothing but water and that Raleigh police overreacted to the incident.
“The way that situation was handled was totally uncalled for,” said Kelton Hines, 16, of Knightdale, who was charged with disorderly conduct. “The Raleigh police shouldn’t have been called out there.”
Roderick Elliott Hodge, 16, of Raleigh, said it was ridiculous to be put in jail because of water balloons.
“This was water balloons,” said Hodge, who was charged with disorderly conduct. “There was water in them. What else, we’re kids. We’re 16-year-olds. It was just blown out of proportion.”
The news conference was organized by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children, an advocacy group lobbying for the arrested students.
Additional Raleigh police and Wake school security staff were on Enloe’s campus, located on Clarendon Crescent in East Raleigh, because of rumors circulating on social media that balloons filled with harmful substances would be thrown.
Kevin Hines, an Apex parent who is not related to Kelton Hines, was also arrested that day on second-degree trespassing charges but he said the charges were dismissed. Hines said he had gone into the school to complain about the “egregious” and “extreme” force he saw a Raleigh police officer use on a student.
The parent of two Enloe students said that the school system should have handled the incident without calling in police.
“We as parents can’t tolerate any more of the policies of having our schools operate like a police state,” he said.
Organizers of the news conference said they wanted to spread the message that only water was being thrown.
But Renee McCoy, a Wake schools spokeswoman, said Thursday that several students who were hit by balloons told school officials that some contained more than just water.
“Some report the substance was urine, some report smells of vinegar, not sure of what else, but apparently not ‘only’ water,” she said.
Jim Sughrue, a Raleigh police spokesman, said all the intact balloons they recovered appeared to be only filled with water. But he said they’re unable to determine what the other balloons contained.
Hines, who was in the jail along with the students as they awaited release, complained that the experience robbed the teens of their innocence.
“It’s not something that a kid should go through, being in jail with older people,” said Damarcus Cole, 16, of Raleigh, who was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.
Hines and the students plan to raise their concerns at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Staff writer Ron Gallagher contributed to this report.