Racial incidents, rumors bring tension, state police to South Carroll High School 20 white students carried Confederate flags Friday

November 21, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A series of racial incidents at South Carroll High put state police on alert last week and have left students and staff members uneasy at the Winfield school.

On Friday, about 20 white students came to school waving Confederate flags from their pickup trucks or wearing T-shirts with the flag and the words, "You wear your X, I'll wear mine," referring to Malcolm X and the crossed bars of the flag. About 25 of South Carroll's 1,338 students are black.

"I think the crisis is over," said Principal David Booz, as he watched over a peaceful lunch period yesterday. "It doesn't mean the underlying problems have gone away, because they haven't."

Rumors surfaced Friday that some students might have weapons, and school administrators called the state police, who spent part of the day in the school parking lot and came back to monitor dismissal.

No weapons were found. No fights erupted. But several students were disciplined, Mr. Booz said. The students wearing the provocative T-shirts were made to turn them inside out or take them off, he said. He declined to say whether any students were suspended, because it could identify them, he said.

"They thought there might be some kind of riot situation," said Sgt. Brenda K. Tharp. "We were called as a precautionary measure."

Mr. Booz's plan includes meeting with parents of the students, counseling the students and strictly enforcing school rules.

"The long-term effort will be to try to help everyone get along better, and that's still in the planning stages," he said. He said he is unsure whether there might be a schoolwide approach, or one that focuses on the students involved in the incidents. He said he will get help from school system counselors and some outside agencies.

Last week, some white and black students had verbal confrontations, during which the whites used a racial epithet or shouted "white power," said Tyrise Rice, a black student who is president of the sophomore class.

"Most of the people at South Carroll are not racist," Tyrise said after school yesterday. "It was a nice day. It was totally opposite from Friday."

A series of unrelated incidents over the past few weeks brought racial tensions to the surface at South Carroll. The tension had been brewing for a few weeks, Mr. Booz said. He knows of no specific disputes at the root.

"If there were, it would be easier" to deal with the problems, he said. Students are bringing up vague complaints such as "she stared at me," he said.

But Tyrise said there have been specific incidents, such as the black freshman who found an epithet written on her locker.

Teachers and administrators have been supportive, she said, but "they should have been more aggressive and acted sooner."

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