Officials to review Franklin security Meeting today follows after-school fight at school last month

November 08, 1995|By Jay Apperson and Mary Maushard | Jay Apperson and Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

An after-school melee that seriously injured two people has triggered a review of security policies and racial attitudes at Reisterstown's Franklin High School.

Having already stationed off-duty state troopers as security guards at the school in the wake of the Oct. 12 fight, police and school officials are to meet today to discuss further action.

They also will survey students about their attitudes on race, safety and the general atmosphere of the school.

Debate has centered on whether the brawl was a symptom of larger racial or security problems, or an isolated fight that could have erupted in any school yard.

Teachers and students said there is no unusual racial strife at Franklin, but police said they are responding to calls from parents concerned that the fight could spark further violence.

The melee stemmed from a hallway bumping incident Oct. 11 between a white student and a black student, according to county Officer Mike Meerdter, who investigated the fight. He said the bumping prompted the use of "the magic 'N' word," and that the white student -- an 18-year-old senior -- may have been riled by previously being tagged "hillbilly."

After school the next day, a racially mixed group of at least 10 approached the white youth. It is uncertain who struck the first blow, but the white student was knocked to the ground and kicked, the officer said.

A 20-year-old man who is not a Franklin High student tried to help the youth on the ground but was picked up and dropped on his head, police said. Both were treated for "serious head injuries," according to police.

Officer Meerdter said two juveniles and three adults have been charged in the attack. He said that many of those involved in the fight were not Franklin students.

Joseph Goralczyk, the Garrison Precinct's community outreach officer, said the fight stemmed less from racial animosity than from friction between students whose families have lived a long time in the area and those whose families are relative newcomers.

Among the issues for today's meeting is a police program to train students to mediate their disputes, Officer Goralczyk said.

Fallout from the fight is the latest issue to surface in Reisterstown-area schools, among the most overcrowded in the county. Franklin has a capacity of 935 students and an enrollment of 1,213. Its minority population increased from 14.9 percent in 1987 to 21.5 percent last school year.

Franklin is the latest county high school to address concerns about violence.

Randallstown High was beset last school year by fights and arson, and Woodlawn had numerous fights and unrest.

A fight earlier this school year among Lansdowne High students raised community concerns about gangs and racial tension.

Franklin Principal Evelyn J. Cogswell was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Terrence Sheridan, student safety director for county schools, termed the fight an isolated incident.

There is no indication of gang involvement, he said, but he and Mrs. Cogswell will continue to investigate.

Gail Rauch-Tilstra, a teacher at the school, said some racial incidents are inevitable in a diverse community.

But she sees no pattern of racial tension there.

"Reisterstown is not a community of one type of person, and we should thank God for that," she said. "That's what makes the community and the school good."

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