“I’m not sure why it happened. You hear different things from different students,” said LAUSD Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines of the recent racial brawl at Locke High School.
Cortines was part of the conflict resolution team on campus Monday along with beefed up security to address last Friday’s brawl between African American and Latino students. According to police reports 50 to 100 students were fighting while hundreds more egged them on. The violence grew out of control, eventually involving about 600 students. About 60 officers had to come and subdue students and restore order and the school went into lockdown.
Three were arrested for fighting and one non-student was arrested for possessing a knife. The school nurse treated four students for minor injuries.
“What I’ve been seeing is, is really bad between these two races,” said one student Jasmine Thompson to ABC News.
More than one student contributed the madness to a tagging war. Reportedly the battle was to involve 10 Black students and 10 Hispanic students. But the skirmish quickly sparked several battles along racial lines throughout the school.
Cortines who gave words of praise to Green Dot, an entity that will be taking over Locke soon, blames the incident and others like it on poor leadership.
“I don’t think we’ve had strong leadership at Locke for some time,” he said.
“I don’t think we have been as sensitive as we could have been to some of the issues students have… (such as the tension between Blacks and Latinos.)”
Low expectancy levels for poor students of color are also to blame, he said, pointing to disprortionately high drop out rates among African Americans and English language learners.
“It makes a major statement when you have a [large] percentage of African Americans who drop out of school,” said Cortines.
“I think that we have not treated African American students correctly, especially ones who are poor nor have we treated English language learners correctly. Since it’s about 50/50 now and in some places 60 percent Latinos, I don’t think we as a city and school system, which is part of the city have done a very good job of helping people learn how to live together.”
Police were patrolling the campus on foot, motorcycle and in squad cars to ensure there would be no violence on campus. Monday was the beginning of California Standard Testing and Cortines was worried about what effect the fighting would have on test scores. Locke High Principal Travis Kiel said he is embarrassed by the melee but that he is grateful to have a lot of outside help from people in the community. The heavy police presence at the campus will remain in effect at least through the end of the week, he told reporters.