Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Evacuee Education In Texas: Unforeseen Challenges

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast, many children who were evacuated settled in Texas and began attending local schools. There were some unforeseen complications:
Fights between displaced students and their new classmates have frustrated districts in Texas and other states with large populations of Katrina refugees and have eclipsed the warm welcomes that schools insist are the norm.

In Houston, which absorbed about 6,000 student evacuees, district officials have reported at least a dozen violent incidents. The district reopened classes after the Christmas break with a 10 percent increase in campus security.

The worst occurred at Westbury High School in December, when 15 evacuees and 12 local students were arrested during a near-riot in the lunchroom.

At Houston's Jones High School, three were hospitalized and five arrested in September after a soda tossed near a group of evacuees sparked a fight involving at least 20 students. In Dallas, students at Lincoln High School said several fights broke out during a November power outage.

Turf battles, culture clashes and posturing provoke most incidents. Jealous boys are ruffled by evacuees talking to local girls. Different music styles _ Houston's slow "chopped and screwed" remixes verses the quicker "bounce" of New Orleans _ have created wedges.

Westbury freshman Janet Granados said evacuees antagonize Houston students by writing graffiti in textbooks and bathrooms. In San Antonio, New Orleans evacuee Terrell Smith, 14, believes classmates unfairly pegged him a vagabond outsider from the start.

"The core of the problems was territory," Westbury Principal Eric Coleman said. "When you're going to someone else's territory and you're dealing with someone who's different, that have different cultures, different backgrounds, there is always going to be an adjustment, or a transitional, period. That's all this was. It's still going to take time."

Houston, which received more Louisiana students than any district in the country, hired the equivalent of 18 additional full-time officers to patrol its most volatile campuses. The district also charged 20 administrators to flood campuses with adult presence when needed.
There's no easy answer to solving this problem. But the schools might make a start by expelling those students young miscreants who commit violent assaults upon their school mates.

It's time for some folks to reminded that in a school it's the adults who are supposed to be in charge, not the children.
See our latest education-related posts right here.