Johnston County school officials are investigating an incident involving as many as 25 students from Smithfield Selma High School. It happened around Noon Thursday at Smithfield Community Park, adjacent to the school on Booker Dairy Road.
WTSB News has learned the students were outside with their teacher studying ecosystems.
According to witnesses, several of the students rushed onto playground equipment and into an area where several young children were playing with their parents and grandparents. A 4 year-old child fell during the rush of students and was injured.
After the incident and injury all the visitors and their children left the community park while the students remained.
One parent who spoke with WTSB said a group of 3 and 4 year-old children were playing when about 25 students he described as 17- and 18-year-olds began running and jumping on the equipment the youngsters were on at the time. The children became frightened and some began to cry. One child sustained a back injury.
The parent said he asked one of the students what they were doing at the park during school hours. The student claimed they were picking up trash. The parent said he never saw any of the students gathering trash.
“They seemed to be at recess,” the parent who wished to remain anonymous stated. “I spoke to the principal and he said this is not the type of behavior the high school promotes. He was unaware of the students presence.”
The parent said their child was so traumatized by the incident their child does not want to return to the park.
Tracey Peedin Jones, a spokesperson for Johnston County Schools, said the class was being supervised at the time and the details of the situation are being investigated. “JCPS takes this situation seriously and the principal began an investigation as soon as he was made aware.”
WTSB News checked with the Town of Smithfield about the incident. Tim Kerigan, Public Information Officer for the Town, said the matter was being handled by Smithfield Selma High and Johnston County Schools.
The Smithfield Police Department was never notified about the incident nor did they respond.
“This generation needs to learn to be respectful instead of acting like its recess,” the parent stated. Their child’s injury did not require hospitalization.