Rumors of impending violence between black and Hispanic gang members kept an estimated 51,000 students away from city schools on Cinco de Mayo.
“I’m devastated that a rumor can cause such fear,” said Randy Cornfield, assistant principal at Hamilton High School. “I was telling parents it would be safer to have their kids in school than out on the street or at the mall.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District reported that about 18 percent of the 290,000 students enrolled in middle and high schools failed to show up Thursday. The absence rate was 8 percent higher than for the previous Thursday.
A circulating e-mail rumor had said that Hispanic gang members were going to use the traditional Mexican holiday to attack black gangsters in retaliation for drug thefts, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said.
The rumors followed two outbreaks of ethnic violence that ended with injuries and arrests last month at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles.