Calm returns to troubled Patterson High School

October 27, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

The morning announcements over the intercom at Patterson High started out normally enough yesterday, with the principal praising the soccer team and a student standout in volleyball.

But violence at the school Tuesday prompted Principal Bonnie Erickson to break the mundane listing of events to urge students not to be distracted by the perverse actions of a few.

"Yesterday at Patterson we had an unfortunate occurrence, actions by maybe five or six individuals who do not make even 1 percent of our population," she announced. "Yet it is these people who get all the attention. They don't deserve it."

Calm returned yesterday to the school and its 1,700 students, although the fistfights, food fights and other skirmishes of the day before caused lots of talk.

"The only way the principal is going to get this school back to normal is to get all the kids who hang out in the hallways out of here," said Odan Layton, 17, a senior.

Timara Mincher, a sophomore, said Pattereson High has improved since last year. "The principal is trying to do what she can to improve this school, but the kids won't listen," she said.

Tuesday's unrest began about 10:20 a.m. when John Jacobson, the head of the social studies department, stopped a 17-year-old boy from hitting a girl. The boy took off down a hall, grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed a classroom, then confronted Mr. Jacobson. The teacher said the boy, who has recently been incarcerated and has behavioral problems, swung a chair at him, hitting him in the hand.

School officials said the boy then threw a bottle at a school police officer, hitting him in the shoulder. Officials said the youth struggled with school police officers who tried to subdue him with mace.

The teen-ager bolted out the door, picked up a rock and threatened city and school police officers, who drew their service weapons and arrested him, said Donna Franks, a school spokeswoman. He was suspended from school and charged as a juvenile with assault on a police officer.

Later in the day, food fights erupted in the cafeteria, police broke up a fight between two students and city police were called to a nearby overpass to stop students who were throwing rocks and bottles at cars.

In October, there have been six assaults at Patterson, excluding Tuesday's incidents, according to school system officials. Crimes reported this month at the school also include two robberies, a marijuana arrest and an attempted robbery.

Mr. Jacobson said the school is awaiting permission from the administration to start a program called "Twilight School," where troubled students -- about 20 to 30 at Patterson -- would attend classes from 2:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. "That way they won't be a disruption to the system every day," he said.

"Patterson High is starting to improve," Ms. Erickson said. "But changing the culture of a building in seven weeks can't be done. . . . We are trying to put in place the idea that school is work. School is a job."

Ending her remarks over the intercom, the principal told the students that some teens come to school "without anything on their minds at all. We can't let those people turn this school around. We can't make these few individuals make the news.

"Don't be held prisoner by those who don't want to succeed," Ms. Erickson pleaded. "We are a good school. We will be a great school. Let's have no more of this foolishness."

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