Posted on April 3, 2006

Police Brought in As Teachers Lose Control at Berlin School

Deutsche Presse Agentur, March 31, 2006

BERLIN — Violence at a Berlin school dominated by Arab and Turkish youths and the nearby slaying of police officer, shot in the head while trying to arrest muggers, has fuelled alarm that troubled parts of the German capital are lurching out of control.

Police have now been brought in to help control the situation at the Ruetli school in the immigrant-dominated Neukoelln district, with six officers checking students for weapons.

Teachers at the school published a letter this week widely interpreted as saying conditions at their school had become so bad that it should be closed down.

The letter said teachers had lost all authority and were now so afraid that they only entered classrooms with a mobile phone so they could call for help in an emergency.

“The mood . . . is dominated by aggression, lack of respect and ignorance,” said the letter, adding: “We have reached a dead end and there is no way to turn around.”

When reporters went to school on Thursday they were pelted with paving stones by masked youths from the schoolyard as the district’s mayor stood helplessly at the entrance of the building.

“While sheer chaos dominated behind him, the mayor talked about the failures of the 1968 generation,” jeered the Berliner Kurier newspaper.

Teachers complain that over 83 per cent of the 224 children attending the school are foreigners. The biggest group, 35 per cent, are Arab children mainly from Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

Turks, with 26 per cent, comprise the second largest group at the school.

Germany has about 7.3 million foreigners or 9 per cent of the total population.

A problem in German schools is that especially Arab male students often refuse to respect the authority of women teachers, education sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Peter Struck, education specialist at the University of Hamburg, was blunt about problems posed by foreign students in German schools which separate children headed for university and those who are not, who get dumped in less-competitive “Hauptschulen.”

“It is often Hauptschulen which are hit with difficulties because they have a concentration of problem students and high number of foreigners which means that the boys are often being raised in a home environment which glorifies violence,” said Struck in an NDR radio interview.

Students at the Ruetli Hauptschule were not shy about expressing their views to reporters.

“The German (students) brown nose us, pay for things for us and stuff like that, so that we don’t smash in their faces,” said a foreign student from the school as quoted by the Berliner Kurier.

But there are also conflicts between Arab and Turkish students, mirrored in battles between the city’s foreign-dominated youth gangs.

Integration of foreign youths in Berlin is often poor. Even second and third generation children frequently do not speak fluent German and many fail to complete school — all of which leads to a high jobless rate among immigrant youths.

White German families are moving out of districts like Neukoelln and into better parts of the 3.4 million metropolis or into new suburbs ringing the city which were swiftly built after the 1989 opening of the Berlin Wall.

Berlin’s education senator, Klaus Boeger, rejected any idea of closing the Ruetli School and police are now on duty around the building. Arabic and Turkish speaking social workers have been rushed into the school.

Meanwhile, the funeral was took place Friday of a police office whose brutal slaying earlier this month in Neukoelln shocked the city.

Uwe Lieschied was shot in the head at close range after he tried to arrest two men who had been involved in a street robbery. Declared brain-dead by doctors, he died after being in a coma for several days.

Lieschied, aged 42, was well-known officer in the district who was involved in efforts to clean up the notorious drug-dealing scene in Neukoelln’s Hasenheide Park.

Police have arrested two unemployed men of Turkish origin in connection with the killing and officials say one of them has confessed to shooting the officer.

Germany has strict gun control laws and the shooting of police officers or use of firearms in murders is generally rare.