Parents Worry, and Many Students Stay Away at Jefferson

Wendy Thermos and Monte Morin, Los Angeles Times, May 28

One day after police were called to break up the third in a series of racially charged brawls at Jefferson High School, worried parents stood vigil outside the South Los Angeles campus Friday and demanded that administrators clamp down on the unrest.

As several dozen police officers and members of the Nation of Islam patrolled the streets surrounding the high school and Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa met with students and administrators to discuss the fracas, scores of parents descended on the campus and expressed fears that administrators were losing control of the situation.

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Black students in particular appeared to have stayed away. Parents and students said they were as worried about violence occurring on the way to school as they were that it would break out on campus. Senior Emmanuel Wilson, 18, said he saw only two fellow black students on campus.

Latinos constitute about 92% of Jefferson’s 2,405 students, while blacks make up 7%.

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Another student, freshman Terrence Chambers, said he was still worried about his safety. “I’m upset because I gotta really watch my back to see if someone’s gonna jump me or say something to me,” he said.

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The Nation of Islam has also beefed up the patrols it began after the first brawls.

“We now patrol [near] at least 10 high schools because we don’t want to see black and brown families at war,” said Tony Muhammad, a regional leader of the Nation of Islam.

“What you see is the clashing of cultures, and no one wants to bend . . . Sometimes even the body language can be misinterpreted.”

The school term ends June 28 for Jefferson, which is a year-round campus.

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