Racial tensions growing at Chicago high school

April 3, 2008 4:21:33 PM PDT
Some parents at one Chicago public high school say more needs to be done to protect their children from violence during the school day. There have been a series of fights at George Washington High School over the last week.

There's been a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding the mass firing of teachers by the new administration. Now, students have reacted with outrage and it has exacerbated the racial tensions at the school.

"They had to shut down the school. The kids, it was in panic. I don't know if it has to do with the gangs or what. But there was a lot of kids that got hurt in the school. My daughter, I was scared to leave her in school this morning," said Sara Carreon, parent.

"The students themselves are dividing themselves. And it appears that they're doing it racially. And as well, there's a new administration that's come in," said Kleo Costello, parent.

Hundreds of parents and students from George Washington High School on the Southeast Side say that violence is a daily occurrence at their school and that it is racially motivated between African American and Latino students. When school was let out after 3 p.m., fighting erupted in front of the school.

"One of my friends just got attacked. We over there to pull the group off of her. It was a race thing again," said Cecila Guajardo, student.

"I think over time, we need adults to really focus on children and not focus on the personality issues there," said Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan.

Duncan says a fight broke out Wednesday in the school lunch room and that the problems at the school are related to the fact that a new principal and a number of adults are rejecting her recent firings of 10 teachers.

Several students have decided not to go to class because they say they fear for their lives.

"It's, like, hard to concentrate when you're trying to do your work and come to school for education but also worry about your life in danger," said Isolina Matos, student.

And parents were set to meet with the new principal, Florence Gonzales, but the school posted a note saying the meeting has been canceled and moved to Tuesday.

"When she came here, she called me that she was hiding under the stairs, that there was a riot, that she didn't have nowhere to go, nowhere to ru. I had to run out of work, off my job, come and try to help her," said parent Samantha Flores in tears.

Gonzales was unavailable for ABC7 and for the parents.

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