The school day at Jefferson High School passed without incident Tuesday. But it was far from typical.
After a surprise visit from Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Roy Romer, Mayor James K. Hahn showed up. At one point, school Police Chief Alan Kerstein, who was also there, said 29 school police officers patrolled the South Los Angeles campus and 12 more roamed nearby. Attendance at the 2,400-student school was down by almost half.
Administrators hoped to avoid a repeat of Monday, when more than 100 black and Latino students were involved in what was considered a racially- and gang-motivated brawl near Jefferson’s cafeteria at lunchtime. Six students were detained and two of them arrested.
It was the campus’ second melee in less than a week. On Thursday, three students were hurt in a brawl also involving about 100 students.
Despite the strong showing by police and district officials, many parents’ fears were not alleviated. About 150 parents showed up at the school Tuesday morning, concerned about their children’s safety. In response, school officials held an impromptu meeting in the school cafeteria. Another meeting for parents, faculty, students and neighborhood residents is scheduled for Thursday evening.
Principal Norm Morrow said that the problems on campus are similar to problems faced by the area around Jefferson at East 41st Street and Hooper Avenue. “We just have a lot of issues with race,” said Morrow. “It’s coming out of the community, into the school.”
Morrow said that many of the students involved in Monday’s melee will be disciplined.
As he spoke, students began leaving the campus through three separate exits. They passed a phalanx of administrators, teachers, police clutching riot helmets and cafeteria workers offering bag lunches. The Los Angeles Police Department had 15 officers available to help.