Youths Say Solution To School Violence Drowns In Words

April 08, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

THE ADULTS TRIED — they looked for reasons, suggested solutions, implored the young people to explain what's going on.

But when it was over, youths from two Annapolis public housing projects -- who have been involved in numerous fights -- said a two-hour meeting Monday night to resolve the problem had achieved nothing.

"There was too much talking (by adults)," said one youth, 15.

"Nothing's going to change until they get both sides together," said another.

The meeting, called by the Annapolis Housing Authority, was intended to do just that -- bring both sides together to talk about an ongoing feud between residents of Eastport Terrace and Newtowne20. Youths from other neighborhoods also have been involved, but the most intense fighting has been between residents of Eastport and "20,"as it is known.

Harold Greene, director of the Housing Authority,invited community leaders, school officials, city and county police,youngsters and their parents to the meeting, at the Eastport TerraceRecreation Center.

"What we're trying to do is to facilitate discussion, to keep people talking," Greene said.

The only problem was, the youths did too little of the talking.

More than an hour intothe meeting, Annapolis Alderman Carl Snowden, D-Ward 5, stood up andasked if the group could hear from the young men sitting quietly in one corner.

Only 18-year-old Antiwan Gray chose to tell his story.

Gray, who was expelled from Annapolis High for fighting in March,said he never had a chance to succeed.

After being expelled once,he got back into school this year, he said.

"As soon as I got there, they pinned a name on me -- drug dealer," he said. "If you come from Eastport Terrace or Newtowne20, already they have that stereotypeagainst you."

Gray admits to fighting and "cussing out" the principal, which got him expelled. What he objects to, he said, is people who wanted him to fail from the start.

"They got what they want. They took me out in handcuffs," he said. "Everybody wants me out on the streets."

Greene, who has met with some of the youths privately,said many feel they are treated unfairly at Annapolis High. If the fights had been among white students, they would not have been expelled, the youths said.

"Whether or not it's true, the youngsters believe it," Greene said.

Police were called to the school twice in March to break up fights and once to search for weapons after anonymouscallers threatened a shootout. Numerous fights also have occurred atthe Annapolis Mall and in the neighborhoods.

So far, two dozen students have been suspended and eight have been expelled for fighting at Annapolis High. Seven others will be transferred to other schools.

Some participants at Monday's meeting said the fights were over "turf wars." Others said they were over insults traded back and forth.

The lack of parental guidance, glorification of violence in movies, negative press reports and low self-esteem were all suggested as contributing factors.

Greene traced the feud back to last September, when a girl from Newtowne20 slapped a girl from Eastport Terrace inthe face.

But others said the problems go back further.

ArethaStubbs, principal of the Center of Applied Technology South, said the fighting started in 1989, when five youths from Eastport Terrace jumped another youth from Parole, headed to see friends in Newtowne20. The feud cooled down after youngsters were sent to different middle schools. But when they were reunited in high school, the violence began anew, she said.

After the meeting, many of the young men were eager to talk. Most said they wanted meetings in a neutral setting withonly one or two adults acting as moderators.

"That would have resolved it in the first place," said Lovell Logan, 21, whose brother was expelled Monday.

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