Violent confrontations in the last two weeks between black and Latino students at three Los Angeles high schools has taken authorities by surprise, raising fears of widening clashes, the Los Angeles Times reports. Police and school officials have responded with stepped-up patrols in and around Crenshaw, Manual Arts, and Jordan high schools. They hope the action will calm tensions in an area with a long history of gang violence and recent ethnic shifts. Once predominantly black neighborhoods increasingly are populated by Latino immigrants.
“There’s profound gang issues in some of these communities, and normal tensions in the communities become problems at the schools because the schools basically mirror the community,” said Edward Woodruff, a retired school official. The violence began Nov. 19 at Jordan High School when dozens of students started pummeling one another during lunch as about 200 students watched. About 100 police and school district officers responded, using pepper spray to disperse crowds. A police officer was knocked down and beaten. Police arrested three students, and the campus was locked down. “We’ve been asking ourselves, ‘What the heck is going on?’ ” said campus police Lt. Michael Bowman. “It doesn’t follow any normal pattern.”