DELTONA—Jodi Ellis and her friends said there are places they can’t go at Pine Ridge High School.
“We’ll walk by and they’ll say ‘get out of here, go back to Puerto Rico.’ Then they say some things I can’t repeat,” the 15-year-old ninth-grader said of a group of white students who hang out near the bathrooms in the school’s central courtyard.
One 17-year-old junior who hangs out with that group and calls them and himself “rednecks,” said what may seem like racial and ethnic conflict to some really means nothing.
“It’s just the usual high school drama,” Sam Carl said.
Nearly a quarter of Pine Ridge’s 2,508 students are Hispanic, many of them Puerto Ricans whose families moved here from New York and other large cities. Many of the school’s white students are from farming families who have lived in Osteen for generations. Sometimes, those different backgrounds make for conflict.
About two weeks ago, rumors of a gunfight between white and Hispanic students and the arrest of four students for possessing knives kept nearly 800 students home from school one day. It also brought to light what some people say are brewing racial and ethnic problems at the school bound to boil over soon, and what others, including school officials, say is merely a few overt teens acting macho.
But, the recent rumors of the gunfight were taken seriously and prompted the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to bring several deputies, in addition to the school’s one school resource officer, to campus. And while Sheriff’s Office statistics on school violence do not clarify whether the violence is race-related, Pine Ridge had more assault and battery—35—and disturbance—37—incidents last school year than any other high school in the county.
Deltona High School, which is similar in size and racial diversity to Pine Ridge, had six fewer assault and batteries and 29 fewer disturbances. New Smyrna Beach High School, which is smaller and almost 90 percent white, had the fewest assault and batteries, with four.