School District officials believe racial tensions are beginning to ease at Skyline High School following last week's potentially explosive confrontation between white and Hispanic gangs.
"There are some tensions, but there is not going to be a conflagration," Idaho Falls School District spokeswoman Dorothy Mandiloff said. "Nobody wants it to happen again."The four Hispanic students belonging to MWA, short for Mexicans With an Attitude, returned to class on Wednesday after staying away from school the first two days of the week at the request of the administration.
Last Friday, they were surrounded by as many as 200 white students, apparently spurred on by a gang of student-athletes called The Posse. But before the confrontation could escalate beyond some name-calling and shoving, the four Hispanic students were escorted into the building by police and security guards.
The Hispanic students were given excused absences for Monday and Tuesday, meaning they can make up any tests or assignments they missed, Mandiloff said.
Principal Lewis Gourley met with both gangs on Tuesday, Mandiloff said, and the students struck a conciliatory note, agreeing to work out tensions between themselves. The Hispanic students also agreed not to wear their black gang jackets to school on Wednesday.
Mandiloff said Frank Sanchez, a minority relations specialist for EG&G Idaho, and Rosa Rodriguez, the district's migrant coordinator, were meeting with parents of the Hispanic students in an effort to defuse tensions caused by Friday's incident.
Police and school officials said tensions between the two gangs had been growing for some time, and security was tightened at Skyline. Police patrolled campus with both uniformed and non-uniformed officers walking the halls this week.
Gourley quickly announced that he would not tolerate any fighting, harassment, intimidation or racial slurs in the school, warning that troublemakers will be suspended.
"Some way we are going to have to get the message out that we have respect," he said earlier in the week. "We need to ensure all students that it's OK to be here."