September 14 - September 20, 1995

The Three R's Go Down at Tucson High: Rage, Rumbles and Rifles.

B y  H a n n a h  G l a s s t o n

TUSD Seeks: Principal Tucson High Magnet School $55,305-$64,136.
Leadership, management and supervision of a large, urban Magnet
High School.

--Advertisement in local daily

AFTER A FIST fight between two Tucson High Magnet School students put one boy in the hospital and left four other students, two monitors and one assistant principal with minor injuries Tuesday, the district might consider adding "possible battle pay," to sweeten their job offer.

Tom Patrick, who was picked as Tucson High's interim principal a week before classes started, said the administrators took action immediately when they saw an "unusual number of students" congregating in the patio area near the snack bar at lunch time. Joseph Romero, THMS' only resource officer for the school's 2,500 students, put in the 911 call to the Tucson Police Department after "five or six" smaller fights broke out after the initial brawl.

TPD responded in a big way. "The whole street was filled with cop cars," said student Jessica Vining. "It was just insane, total pandemonium. I've been at three different high schools and I've never seen anything like this. I mean you call 911 and you get the whole Tucson Police Department. They had helmets on and I saw one cop with his rifle cocked."

The police did not return calls by deadline Wednesday morning.

Several other film students said they were upset by the immense show of officers in riot gear. They fear this incident only makes their school, which they defended as being one of the best in the city, "look like crap."

Vocational Education Coordinator Harvey Williams said he was there throughout the fracas and "there was no riot. Somebody panicked. When the ambulance came, the police came. To have riot police with shotguns? That was ridiculous."

Calling THMS "a great school," teacher David Bachman-Williams, who's also the parent of a Tucson High student, asked, "Why do we need 200 police with shotguns and riot gear when no guns or knives were seen?"

Interim Principal Patrick, who was brought out of retirement to administer THMS until permanent leadership can be established at the school, would say only, "It looked like an over response from the police, but they come as they come." He also said it was too early to determine if the fight was racially motivated or gang related.

Students Tuesday said the fights were racially motivated and gang related, with Hispanics fighting African-Americans.

Speaking live on a City of Tucson cable TV show following the incident, Police Chief Douglas Smith said, "Given the age of a lot of these youngsters, they like to see these things, keep the flames going. Sometimes a show of force is the only thing that works."

Work it did--students were terrified, said Sally Miller, president of the THMS Parent Teacher-Student Association. "The whole incident was not handled well." She called TUSD and was told there had been a fight but that students were back in classes. High school officials told her kids were being encouraged to go to class but could go home if they were afraid.

"Next thing I knew Tucson High was sending them home. They just sent them all off into the community with no provisions for how they were supposed to get home. If I were a merchant on Fourth Avenue, I would be screaming. There were kids all over there by noon."

She lays the blame for the mess on the school board, faulting members for not "putting in a strong administrative team" following the board-mandated transfer of Assistant Principal Robert Templin and subsequent resignation of Principal Henry Lujan just weeks before school started.

Students lay some of the blame on campus monitors. One student said, "Half of our monitors are buddy-buddy with the gang members. If you're good friends with the monitors, they'll actually let you go off campus." His friends nodded in agreement. The students added there has been gang and racial tension building between Hispanic and African-American students for at least two weeks.

During that time, kids have been setting off false fire alarms several times a day--on some days as many as six times, said Miller. "And it wasn't stopped. So, what are you going to think, 'Well, if I can do that, I can do something else.' "

She said the parents' organization will continue to go to the board requesting a full-time principal "who'll be there all year and knows he has something to do."

Miller said district officials told her to expect a permanent principal by October 1. Patrick said he expects to be around only until the end of the semester.

Deadline for principal applications is September 22--riot gear is de regueur.

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September 14 - September 20, 1995

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