Residents of Imperial Courts Housing Project in the Watts section of this city, some of whom have been keeping their children home for months from high school because of what they described as unabated "terrorist" conditions there, went public Friday with a broad attack on the school district.
Contending that gang tensions make it impossible for Imperial Courts children to attend Jordan High School safely, the parents demanded that the Los Angeles Unified School District arrange for immediate transfers of the students to safe schools and provide any transportation necessary.The parents also announced that they have filed a formal complaint against the Jordan administrators and the school district with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
In their complaint, the parents said their children "will remain absent from school because there exists life-threatening and dangerous conditions in the classrooms, on the campus and in surrounding neighborhoods." Gang members from the nearby Jordan Downs Housing Project have threatened the children's lives with guns, knives and other weapons "both at school and while traveling to and from the campus," the complaint said.
It requests an "emergency investigation" of conditions at the school.
John Palomino, director of the Office for Civil Rights regional office in San Francisco, said he received the complaint Friday morning and was evaluating it to see if it falls under his jurisdiction. He declined to make further comment about it.
In response to the parents' concerns, California Assemblywoman Maxine Waters and school board member Warren Furutani met with about 25 Imperial Courts residents Friday. They were joined by Jordan High principal Grace Strauther and school district security officers.
Furutani, whose district includes Watts, said he welcomes any investigation of Jordan because the worst charges leveled by the parents are not true.
"I would love to have people come in," Furutani said. "Yes, there are problems, but we also have a good staff and dedicated teachers."
Furutani also indicated a willingness by the district to arrange for bus transportation between Jordan and Imperial Courts for any students who are fearful of being attacked, and for transfer permits for anyone who would rather leave the school.
Waters said she told the parents at the meeting she would prefer that they try to work out their problems at Jordan High rather than "running away" from them.
Earlier at a press conference at which the complaint was announced, a dozen parents said it has become impossible for Imperial Courts students to attend Jordan safely.
Since school opened in September, they said, students from the project have been threatened by gang members or have suffered beatings on and off school grounds.
Their complaints to Jordan High administrators and school district officials, they said, were ignored and incidents of violence - including a rape and a stabbing on the campus last year - went unreported to police and other authorities. In one case, they allege, a student was attacked by a teacher.
"We're so afraid for our kids," said Gwen Johnson, who said she has kept her 15-year-old son, Abdul Gaston, home from Jordan since Jan. 3. "They are getting terrorized by kids who are pulling guns inside the class and outside the class."