In Canton, any school unwelcome
My day yesterday started out at a press conference for what seemed to be a pretty straightforward, positive story about the city's launch of six new middle/high schools (called "transformation schools" by BCPSS). By the afternoon, the story had morphed into something completely different, as I got call after e-mail after call about the outrage among Canton residents that one of the transformation schools will be located in Canton Middle, a building that was supposed to be vacated by the summer of 2009. (The school is still closing, but the building will be used for a new school.) City Councilman Jim Kraft is so angry he's threatened to hold up the school system's budget, which is before the council now.
It's clear that there's a serious problem now involving Canton Middle School students -- most of them poor and black -- behaving badly in a neighborhood that's increasingly occupied by affluent white people. Clearly, they're not learning proper conduct from their school or from home. But are they unteachable? The neighbors I talked to seemed to think so, saying they opposed the creation of any new middle/high school even though it will be run by entirely different people, even though the school's operator has had success with similar populations in Washington. I e-mailed Dr. Alonso about the reaction I was hearing. His response: "For the system to be what it should be there has to be a belief in the community that the schools can improve – that the children will improve."
In the course of my reporting, I had forwarded to me several e-mails from a community listserv about alleged attacks by Canton Middle students after classes dismissed. I'm pasting one that is particularly troubling -- on multiple levels -- below. I've deleted the poster's e-mail address but otherwise have not edited the message at all.
Patterson Park Attack
Posted by: "C"
Fri Apr 25, 2008 1:19 pm (PDT)
Just wanted to give everyone a heads up...
We were walking our dog in the park at approximately 3pm and were near the corner of Linwood and Baltimore when we saw a group of 10-15 boys (middle school aged) and 5-7 girls start throwing sticks and verbally threatening two young women strolling a young child...they backed off the women and the women walked past us. Less than 5 minutes later they ran down and beat a man (40-50 years old) with a large stick, while punching and kicking him...he was able to run towards us, and by then I was already on the phone with the police, so the kids took off down Lombard. He was bleeding profusely from his head and was taken to the hospital by paramedics. As we were giving our statement to police another man came running up and said his neighbor was in front of his house and was also beaten with a stick in the head by the same group and she needed an ambulance as well. The police then reported to us that they have had numerous calls around this time concerning this particular group of kids walking home from school...but they have not been able to catch them and can't post a squad in the area because it is "shift change"...they advised us to voice our concerns at the SE community meeting. The kids seemed to be afraid of dogs, (even a yellow lab that runs from cats) so I for one will be out in the park around 3pm with the dog and pepper spray!