About 400 residents of the Patterson Park area met with police and city officials at St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic Church to seek solutions to end the on-going violence and unruly conduct they say is caused by some students at Hampstead Hill Middle School.
During the two-hour meeting last night at the church at Lakewood Avenue and Baltimore Street, residents showed strong emotions and deep frustration.
"Enough is enough," said Loretta Willits, 60.
Willits said it's time that parents of troublemakers at the school be held accountable for their children's actions.
"This neighborhood is sick and tired of getting the blame for what's going on here," Willits said. "I cannot be responsible for somebody's else's child."
But Glenn L. Ross, a resident and organizer of the meeting, said: "The whole thing in a nutshell is this is our neighborhood and we have to get involved."
The residents' anger over what they say is a continuing problem came to a head after the May 17 beating of Expedito "Pedro" Lugo, 24, who was beaten brutally with his own baseball bat.
Two 15-year-old boys have been charged as adults with attempted murder in the beating, as has a 19-year-old man, police said. A 13-year-old boy has been charged as a juvenile with attempted murder in the case. One of the 15-year-olds is a Hampstead Hill student.
In recent days, Mayor Kurt Schmoke has met with community leaders to discuss the problems. He has ordered staggered dismissal times of Hampstead Hill students. And he has called for extra public buses at the school to transport students home as a way of reducing their opportunities to walk through the surrounding predominantly white communities -- Baltimore-Linwood, McEldery-Decker, McEldery Park and Kenwood-Jefferson.
Only 150 neighborhood children attend the predominantly black school, residents say.
Of the 1,218 students at Hampstead Hill, 886 are black, 258 white, 18 Asian, 37 Indian and 19 Hispanic.
The majority of Hampstead Hill's students are black and live outside the working-class neighborhoods. Some students have said that area residents don't like the idea of black students walking through their neighborhoods.
Residents said that the beating, which has left Lugo with a fractured skull and in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was the last straw. They say they are tired of students attacking people, jumping and walking on cars, throwing bottles, using profanity and writing graffiti.
"My daughter is afraid when I'm not there to pick her up in the afternoon," said Peter Souter, 44, an engineer. His child attends St. Elizabeth's Catholic School, which dismisses its students early so they can avoid students from Hampstead Hill.
There were varied solutions offered to solve the problems -- formation of a Parent-Teacher Association at Hampstead Hill; Parents-on-Patrol; neighborhood security groups; a school watch program and renovating the school.
Another suggestion was to examine what kind of students should be enrolled at Hampstead Hill.
Some residents wanted to know if they would have a hand in choosing the school's new principal. The current one will be reassigned.
Community leaders said they hope changes will come by the next school year.
Willits volunteered to write letters to the students' parents and inform them of what's going on. "They have to take some type of responsibility for their children," she said.
The solution "is not going to be overnight," said Ed Rutkowski, president of the Baltimore-Linwood Community Association. "What we want to happen is to have something by fall."
During the lively meeting, one man criticized the city school system for failing to have buses arrive on time to pick up students last Thursday and Friday. A school spokesman said the buses were late because the drivers were taking random drug tests.
One woman wanted to know why every time she called police to report student wrongdoings, they did not respond. Maj. Harry Koffenberger, commander of the Southeastern District, told her that because of the flood of emergency calls, police aren't able to handle "minor problems."
At one point during the meeting, Councilman Anthony Ambridge, D-2nd, told residents: "We're not there (at a solution), we're almost there."
A resident retorted: "Bull!"
Warren Wiggins, a science teacher at Hampstead Hill, told residents there are a lot of good students at the school doing good things.
Skip Fletcher, co-owner of Doc Fletcher's Fine Drink Emporium on Lombard Street, hurled a challenge to students. "I'm challenging the student body at Hampstead Hill to change their image by changing their behavior," he said.
Fletcher said conditions would improve if students stopped hanging out on corners, blocking traffic and throwing bottles.
"My challenge is to motivate the kids to do positive things," he said later. "Something they could be proud of."
Another meeting is scheduled June 10.