Patrik Jonsson, Yahoo! News, May 17, 2014
After permanently locking down a Cincinnati-area elementary school to protect kids from frequent gunfire, Ohio education officials are now under rhetorical fire from local residents, who allege the hard security measures have racist overtones.
Princeton City School District officials decided this week to lock down Lincoln Heights Elementary School for the rest of the year, meaning the cancellation primarily of outside activities like recess and P.E. Officials cited several previous lockdowns that resulted from gunfire incidents, including a bullet entering a school bus and lodging next to a bus driver’s head, as their reasoning.
But at a testy meeting with parents on Friday, some parents alleged the lockdown is a plot and a set-up to close down the long-time neighborhood school and thus, in a larger sense, turning their back on the troubled neighborhood they call home.
“Makes me think that the majority of the people that want to close the school down are racist,” said Elbert Daniels, a local resident, according to Fox 19 News.
What Americans who live in safer parts of the country might find shocking about reports of gun fire near a school has become, in places like Lincoln Heights, part of normal, to the extent that violence in some cases no longer engenders fear among residents, studies have found.
“The percentage of students who should feel afraid may be higher [than one in five]: many students who reported exposure to crime and violence did not report commensurate feelings of fear,” according to “Students in Peril,” a landmark report from the University of North Carolina’s School of Social Work.
That appeared to be the sentiment of one Lincoln Heights mom, who was quoted by Fox 19 as saying, “I care about the fact that the fools [are] up there shooting on the hill, but don’t act like it is everybody. Don’t act like we don’t care . . . [or that] we don’t want our children educated because we do.”
Beleaguered school officials defended the lockdown, telling parents that it’s the sixth lockdown since a school bus was hit by a bullet in December. At the start of the school year, said Princeton Schools Superintendent Gary Pack, a child was hit by a stray bullet inside a car. The lockdown comes about a week after two people were shot around the corner from the school.
“We feel that it is necessary [to lock the school down] due to the continued random shootings in the neighborhood, and the fact that bullets don’t have eyes,” said Mr. Pack. “[Shootings are] happening during the day when school is in session.”
Cincinnati has some of the country’s highest levels of racial segregation, and is one of the most crime-ridden cities in the US, averaging 273 crimes per square mile per year, compared to the national average of 39 crimes per square mile.