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Too many things would have to change

Too much has to be done before you can stop the violence. You have to have pride in your community. But they’re not taking it seriously, they don’t have school spirit, I mean I really don’t know what to do. I don’t have the answers. I guess it’s just the way that everybody thinks. The culture of the inner city is different, it’s not like the smaller suburban schools. You have to, for the most part, change the mindset of the students. They think education isn’t important, school isn’t important, they ditch all the time. They don’t listen to their parents and don’t have respect for anybody. Once you have respect, not fighting is common sense.
    We have over 5,000 students, so it’s definitely overcrowded. We have classrooms that are supposedly temporary, but they’ve been there for ages now.
    They’re doing the smaller learning communities, but a lot of students just hang out in school, they don’t want to learn. It takes a long time for counselors to figure out where students are supposed to be—there’s a lack of counselors. There’s big problems at the school, and it’s not just the students’ attitude. There’s a long way to go.
Jessie Fernandez, 18, Fremont HS in South Los Angeles:

Address problems quickly

Our school was founded by the parents. It seems like everyone knows each other’s parents, and there’s a real focus on safety. When there’s a conflict or something we have a ‘safe schools counselor’ who’ll stop it and bring the big P.E. teachers or the soccer coach.
    We have this mural for 9/11 at our school. [Some kids] spray painted and graffitied everything and cut down a tree, and they were caught because they bought hatchets on their credit cards. And so the next day when I got to school the mural was already repainted. I never saw it.
Beeta Baghoolizadeh, 17, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS

Yeah, if there’s a prank on campus, you’ll only see it if you have zero period or first period, because by that time, I guess the school would have people come and take care of it. I’ve never seen a fight on campus.
    I think what I like about my school is that the principal is really like honest to us and it seems like he has a personal relationship with everyone. He’s always around campus. Whenever something important needs to be discussed, like, say, any school vandalism or before any safety issues before a home game against a rival team, he is always on the loudspeaker. A lot of people know about how he used to be the janitor at my school and he wanted to have more influence in the school, and so he went to college and became the principal. He loves his job so much.
    It’s not uncool to talk to the principal or say hi to him. And yeah, its hard to keep people from rolling their eyes at another lecture on the announcements, but I think the open lines of communication at our school between the students, parents and faculty keep it safe.
Machiko Yasuda, 17, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS

Have tight security

There are two high schools in our district. Last spring, there were all these rumors that people from Baldwin Park High School, which is our rival school, were going to come to our school to fight so I remember you saw proctors [monitors] everywhere on campus. And fights never happened.
    Security is really tight there. The vice principals and security, they all have walkie-talkies so I like that … One time there was a fight during a dance. After the fight the principal got on the p.a. system and made a statement. He told the students they should have school spirit, you shouldn’t be fighting, they should be proud of their school. The students didn’t take it that seriously, they sort of joked around. I have to say I’m not that proud of the school, but I think the principal was right, it would be better for all of us if we had school spirit.
    It’s pretty sad because some of the kids feel as if they have no sense of purpose. Maybe because of the people they’re with, they settle for less. They don’t set out to attain those high goals of going to college or doing well in high school, so they just settle for going in gangs or stealing or whatnot. You have to take the kids and give them a tour of the outside world outside of their culture so that they know that there’s more beyond what they know, so they have something to strive for.
Geraldo Raygoza, 17, Sierra Vista HS in Baldwin Park