BUNKER HILL, Ind. – Three fifth graders at an Indiana elementary school were suspended Monday after police said they were involved in gang activity at the school that included fighting and branding themselves.

Maconaquah School Corporation Superintendent Doug Arnold said administrators at Maconaquah Elementary School first learned there was an issue after a fight last week between two students.

He said that after interviewing the children, administrators learned the fight was over which students were allowed to be part of the gang.

The Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune reports deputies began investigating the incident and determined at least 12 children were involved with or associated themselves with the group.

Deputy Linda Sutton, who serves as the school’s student resource officer, said in a report students who associated themselves with the gang engaged in activities such as fighting, intimidation and branding themselves. When asked to define branding, Arnold declined to elaborate.

She said one of the juveniles involved with the group was found with a small razor blade.

Arnold said three of the students have been suspended between three and five days and could face expulsion.

Other students received lesser punishment based on the nature of their involvement.

“We wanted to deal with this promptly and seriously,” Arnold said. “Things like this have never been an issue here, and we wanted to stop it immediately.”

Arnold said he believes the students were not actually part of a gang, but school officials treated the situation as if they were, since the kids referred to gang activity.

“They were talking about something they don’t know anything about,” he said. “We do not tolerate any of this kind of activity, even if it is innocent and naive fifth graders. This is a safe place to go to school.”

Deputies said they continue to investigate the issue and expect to file criminal charges.

Gerber writes for the Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune.

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