UPDATE: Friday (10/17/08) 5:15 p.m.
Madison (WKOW) -- Madison school officials said safety concerns led them to dismiss approximately two thousand students early at Memorial High School Friday after a racially-charged fight at the school the day before.
Superintendent Daniel Nerad said several options were discussed before the decision was made to dismiss the students, which involved notification of school parents through automatic phone calling, and adjusting city bus schedules to accomodate the early student departure. "It was in the best interest of students to have early release."
Madison School District security director Luis Yudice said as many as nine students became involved in a fight Thursday at school. Yudice said the fight started when a student used a racial slur. Officials said the fight pitted a group of Hispanic students against a group of African American students. Yudice said in the aftermath of the fight, rumors began circulating that other students from outside Memorial High school might arrive at Memorial with weapons to exact revenge. Yudice said a command post of police officers was set up at the school.
Yudice said rumors and tips were checked, and one Memorial school student was arrested with a homemade, sharpened weapon, but no one from outside the school arrived armed. "We have no information that there was any concrete plan (of retaliation)."
Assistant school superintendent and former Memorial principal Pam Nash said there would be a beefed up security presence when students return Monday. Nash said planned school events would take place tonight, including a play and the Memorial high school football team's home football game. Nash said portable lights would be put in the football stadium parking lot as an additional security step.
UPDATE: Friday (10/17/08) 12:50 p.m.
27 News has confirmed that Memorial High School students have been dismissed early from classes, at 12:55 p.m.
School district officials want to assure parents that they have found no evidence of a bomb, explosive or firearm device.
Madison Police and school officials will hold a news conference later this afternoon and we will bring you updates when they become available.
27 News has learned that Memorial High School in Madison will dismiss students early on Friday because of a reported threat of violence.
We're told lunch was cancelled and kids are being kept in their classrooms until 12:55 p.m., and buses will be available to bring students home.
We have a crew on the scene and will bring you more information as it becomes available, online and on 27 News at 5, 6 and 6:30.
Yesterday, police arrested seven teens at Memorial after a fight that left one girl unconscious.