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Handguns and Havoc on Los Angeles Campuses

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By William Covington, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

To most students enrolled at Jefferson High School on Sept. 16, 1971, it was just like any new semester school day. Classes were held as usual. Some students hurried, while others lalligagged on their way to class, and the usual toughs roamed the grounds.

Although guns had been seen on campus at various times before, none had ever been fired. This day would be different. A small group of gang members ran around the campus, grabbing guys’ Ace-Deuce brand stingy-brim hats under the pretext that only their gang members could wear them. “If you are not a [gang’s name] you don’t deserve an Ace-Deuce,” the leader was heard to exclaim.

However, one of the confiscated hats belonged to a member of one of five rival gangs known to be active at “Jeff” at the time. Angry over the loss of his hat, he and members of his set [gang] scurried to the car belonging to the hat thieves and let the air out of its tires.

Then they found the hat thieves and chased them to the disabled vehicle, knowing there would be no speedy getaway. That’s when the chasers opened fire, striking the leader several times before fleeing.

The incident seems lost in school district annals, although former students recall it clearly. But, the incident may be important as the first known shooting on a Los Angeles high school campus, and it may have changed the way education is pursued locally from that day on.

Carver Junior High, a feeder school to Jeff, mirrored Jeff with a second on-campus shooting weeks later. Donald Anderson, a former LAUSD security agent, remembers that a Carver student was shot in the arm with a zip gun (a home-made device) outside the boy’s locker room in 1971.

Slightly less than a year later, in November 1972, five teenagers were shot near a homecoming float on Jeff’s campus. This second shooting was believed to be part of “a continuing feud between two rival gangs,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Several hours later a 15-year-old youth believed to be a Jeff student was arrested in his home. Later still, a 17-year-old was booked on the same charges.

Security agents had already been assigned to some campuses years earlier because of the discovery of handguns on campus. Jomo Uhuru-Adafo, formerly Harry Blakely, remembers that among the measures the district took was to assign the first security agents to Jeff as early as 1966 as result of the occasional handgun found there long before any shootings.

By the 1990s—and there is no evidence that the incidents at Jeff or any Los Angeles school started the trend—guns were popping up in schools throughout the nation.

In March 1992, campus gun violence had become so widespread that a Newsweek article by Tom Morganthau, stated: “Tragedy came to Crosby, Texas, over breakfast in the high-school cafeteria. The victim was Arthur Jack, 17, captain of the varsity football team ...” The article said Jack was helping himself to a glass of orange juice when a bullet from a .38-caliber revolver fired by a 15-year-old pierced his heart.

“Gun violence is on the rise in schools all over America, and the nation’s children are trapped in its path,” Morganthau warned. “According to the federal Centers for Diseases Control, one student in five reports carrying a weapon of some type and about one student in 20, or 5.5 percent, reports carrying a gun.”

In 1993, a 16-year-old Fairfax High School student Demetrius Rice became the first student to die in a classroom when he was shot in the chest after a. 357-magnum dropped out of student’s backpack and discharged. Another student was wounded.

Rice’s mother, Mildred Hunt, lost her only son. She reportedly lobbied the Los Angeles Unified School District to institute more stringent security measures, including metal detectors. The metal detector random search policy was implemented that year, no easy task in the second largest school district in the nation, behind the New York City Department of Education.

By 1994, Sen. Dianne Feinstein estimated that about 100,000 students across the nation were carrying handguns to school. In a July 29 Los Angeles Times article she stated: “It’s time to stop making excuses about gun violence in schools so that our law-abiding students can learn in safety... “Thirty-two of the 44 largest school districts in the country now use metal detectors to keep guns off campus. By adopting a gun-free school policy, the Los Angeles Unified School District has seen gun-related incidents decrease by 14 percent in the last year,” she said.

Still, after decades of school violence, the nation has become so inured to it that there was little public outrage when the Fairfax-style shooting was played out again at Gardena High School—where a 17-year-old student would come to school packing a weapon.

On Jan. 18, the student entered his third-period classroom and removed his backpack to take his seat. What happened seconds later that led to two classmates being shot is murky. Gardena students have given different versions of the incident. One said the youth appeared to have been looking for something in his backpack when the weapon discharged. Another thought the impact of the backpack hitting the desk caused the .9-millimeter Beretta to fire.

The police report said the gun discharged when the student reached into the backpack to get a snack.

The bullet struck a 15-year-old male student in the neck before striking a female student of the same age in the head. The young lady, now released from the hospital, was in critical condition for a time. Friends of the young man said he was carrying the handgun for protection.

Officials decided to try the alleged shooter as a juvenile rather than as an adult. He was given a nine-month sentence in juvenile camp, after admitting to the weapons charge. Although the teen, whose name has not been released, was already on probation for a misdemeanor battery charge, LAPD Assistant Chief Pat Gannon said he “was not hard-core, had no gang affiliations and was filled with remorse that his gun had gone off...”

Retired LAUSD police officer Charles Wilson recalls that scanning youths for weapons with metal detectors was “a joke.”

“When we would start scanning students at a particular entrance ... other students who were aware of the security checks would notify their friends via texting or Twitter,” he said. “They were able to avoid the scanning by passing their contraband weapons over school fence to a friend or taking it through another entrance. You would practically have to tear down every school and build them as secure as a judicial courtroom or the Pentagon, with a courtyard open field in the center,” he said.

Ken Trump, a school security consultant, suggests that metal detectors would have to be used around the clock to be effective, otherwise they prove to be too costly. Officers would have to scan everyone at every event, kids on their way to basketball and cheer practice, he said. Any evening event on campus would allow a student the opportunity to visit his locker and store a weapon and retrieve it that following day.

Trump sees metal detectors as a quick solution for complex a problem. With parents searching for peace of mind, metal detectors provide false hope. He believes the best tactic for using metal detectors is to conduct unscheduled scannings on campus. Unannounced, such scannings would be a complete surprise to students.

There was a history of guns on campus long before any shootings began.

“A few of us started carrying small pistols ... because the Slausons of Fremont High and the Businessmen of Jefferson High had a fight, and there were going to be possible retaliations,” Jomo Uhuru-Adafor, who attended Jeff in the ‘60s, said. Drive-bys did not exist then. Guys would stand up and aim and shoot.”

If you were seeking tough guys during the ‘60s and ‘70s, you could usually locate them in autoshop, says mechanic Anthony Bailey, who learned his trade at Jeff. Bailey believes almost every gang had one member who had a gun stashed away somewhere on campus, most of them taken during burglaries.

“However, things were different back then,” he said. “It’s almost as if the guns were used the same way countries used their nuclear arsenals, having it in case things escalated. Back then we fought heads up, with no guns involved.”

Another former gang member agreed. He said that in the earlier years they never brought a gun on campus to shoot anyone, but needed them for protection on the way home.

By the time of the homecoming incident, the Los Angeles Board of Education had toughened regulations concerning the possession of a deadly weapon on school campuses, which included immediate suspension and the initiation of an expulsion process.

To discourage a tide of guns on campus, in 1994 the Antelope Valley Union High School District proposed offering students a $25 reward to inform on classmates who brought guns or drugs on campus. Los Angeles Unified began a hot line for the same purpose, although it offered no reward.

An Antelope Valley Sheriff’s department spokesman said in the three years he had been in the department no guns had been confiscated at the schools.

Of course, guns, although primary, are not the only weapons of choice. There have been numerous incidents of knives, hatchets and other devices brought on campuses.

In an odd twist on the youth-with-guns-in-schools issue, at the end of December a plant manager at Henry Clay Middle School reportedly walked into the school gymnasium and questioned the presence of a few staff and students in the gym at that hour. Not getting what he felt was the proper response, he left the gym and returned with a weapon, demanding that the occupants exit the gym.

For his troubles, the 62-year-old assistant plant manager has been allowed to cool his heels in the Men’s Central Jail, according to the Sheriff’s department. Co-workers who wish to remain anonymous believe he started carrying the weapon after an assault by a co-worker in 2006. “We all think he armed himself after this incident,” one co-worker said.

Congresswoman Waters Leads Community Meeting

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Special to the NNPA from The L.A. Watts Times –

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) called, and the community showed up to hear what she had to say.

And, she said it loud and clear.

Surrounded by elected officials from cities bordering Los Angeles, Waters came onto the stage as Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” was blasting throughout Jesse Owens Park, where she explained how pending budget cuts in Washington, D.C., will affect her constituents and the minority community in general — not only in Los Angeles, but also throughout the nation.

After the prayer, the Congresswoman explained the ongoing negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on the federal budgets. She also explained how, if it is not curtailed, the outcome will be devastating; and that was why she called the community together. She stated, “We’re not going to go for these cuts; we’re going to send a message to the government (in Washington, D.C.). The community is very quiet, we’re not speaking out ... being very complacent,” she continued.

It was the day after Congress had squeaked by a budget at the 11th hour saving the federal from having to shutdown - furlough workers, delay paychecks to federal employees including the military and their families, Social Security recipients, close national parks and a host of other rippling effects. But, that did not happen; still “... it was a short term solution,” she said, “It passed with $38 billion in cuts. What are they cutting?”

Congresswoman Waters laid out some specifics: “We cannot afford to lose health care reform that we worked so hard for ... we need jobs ... we need to rebuild the infrastructure ... we have lost thousands of homes in the community ... we need a dream, not a nightmare.”

The lineup that followed was a who’s who of elected officials.

Councilman Bernard Parks: “We cannot place cuts in human services,” summing up what was previously said. “This has to be a day-to-day event until things change.”

Assemblyman Isadore Hall: “How many of you are fed up?” he repeated rhetorically a few times. “Poor people are always getting the brunt of the cuts; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We must support Congresswoman Waters; she is like a roaring lion in Washington, D.C.”

Assemblyman Steve Bradford: “I’m here standing in solidarity with Congresswoman Waters with my colleagues from the surrounding communities. We depend on what they want to cut; we need to stand up.”

Councilwoman Jan Perry: “Part of my district represents the highest concentration of homeless known as Skid Row. The money from the federal government is to take care of the people so that they don’t fall through the cracks. Let the cameras show (referring to some television and video cameras) we stand today with Congresswoman Maxine Waters.”

Mayor James Butts of Inglewood: “How many of you pay income tax?” he asked. The reason I asked is that it’s supposed to come back to you. It’s not a gift; it’s your money. $800 billion bailout; $1 trillion to Iraq and Afghanistan; $125 billion could bail out the states. American cities must be first before we rebuild other cities (and countries).”

Then many other representatives from other cities were acknowledged; some spoke briefly. They included Councilman Mike Gipson — Carson; Mayor Pro-Tem Alex Vargas — Hawthorne;

Mayor Pro-Tem Rachel Johnson — Gardena; Councilman Dan Medina — Gardena;

Councilwoman Tasha Cerda — Gardena; Councilman Robert Pulliam Myles — Lawndale;

Ms. Gloria Gray, board member — West Basin Municipal Water District; and Mae Thomas, board member — Compton Unified School District.

A special acknowledgement was made in honor of O.V. Smith, the brains behind Willing Workers for the Mentally Retarded, who recently celebrated her 97th birthday. After the Congresswoman introduced her, she referenced that many who are younger than “O.V.” would lay claim to various ailments such as arthritis. Before leaving the podium after a few words, “O.V.” said, “... and I don’t have arthritis,” to a roaring response from the crowd.

Assemblyman Mike Davis: (who came while the event was in progress) “We appreciate her (Congresswoman Waters) ringing the alarm at the gates. We have to save our seniors who worked in the sunrise of their lives and are now in the sunset (of their lives).”

Television commentator Tavis Smiley also spoke: Budgets “are moral documents; the budget that was passed last night was immoral. It benefited the rich and punished the poor. We avoided a shutdown but at what cost, Mr. President? We cannot continue to capitulate. This is not the change we voted for two years ago. We see what’s happening in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio; it’s coming to California.”

Congressional Black Caucus Debate 2012 Budget

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(NNPA) Washington D.C. – Late last night, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) debated the Congressional Black Caucus’ Fiscal Year 2012 Alternative Budget on the House Floor. The United States Congress took up the Cleaver/Scott Amendment—the CBC Budget. The final vote was 103 to 303. The CBC budget focuses on the CBC’s priorities of economic development, job creation, cradle to college and workforce education, and protecting the Affordable Care Act. It makes significant investments in education, job training, transportation and infrastructure, and advanced research and development programs that will accelerate the economic recovery. At the same time, the CBC Budget protects the social safety net without cutting Social Security, killing Medicaid, or making seniors contribute more to Medicare.

The CBC has served this nation diligently for the past 40 years since 1971, and since 1981 it has offered an alternative budget. On the 101st day in the 112th Congress of the United States, the CBC related the Republican Leadership has not brought one jobs bill or solution to the table. Instead, the CBC contended, the GOP leadership passed a budget with draconian cuts that will critically wound and significantly impact vulnerable communities.

The nation's communities of color have been hit hardest by the effects of the recession. Even as the country’s economy slowly rebounds, Black communities are experiencing disproportionately higher rates of unemployment, home foreclosure, educational disadvantages, and economic hardship. As a result, vulnerable communities increasingly rely on public programs to meet their basic needs, but these are the programs the Republican Leadership is eradicating with their budget proposal, according to the CBC.

The Members of the Congressional Black Caucus believe that budgets serve as a window into the moral compass of a nation’s conscience—and the nation’s compass is horribly off. Recklessly cutting vital programs like job training, education, and health care to millions of hardworking American families is not a roadmap to balancing the budget.

For more information on the CBC FY 2012 Fiscal Year Budget please visit: http://thecongressionalblackcaucus.com/issues/the-2012-budget/

Study: Racial Bias Not Real Culprit in Black Child Abuse Cases

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By Stacey Patton, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

Once again, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is here and the conversation on the physical safety and welfare of children is taking place amid blazing headlines over the controversial issue of paddling in schools. A recent study on race and child abuse reporting published in the March issue of Pediatrics is making waves throughout the social services community.

As disproportionate numbers of Black children continue to enter foster care, and a higher number die each year as a result of abuse and neglect, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have sparked a serious debate over the causes. Are the high numbers of Black child victims reflective of a higher degree of abuse at home? Or are the numbers a product of racial bias in reporting from mostly White social workers who are more likely to suspect maltreatment among Blacks?

The study titled “Racial Bias in Child Protection? A Comparison of Competing Explanations Using National Data,” says that child abuse really is more common in Black than White homes. The study also challenges long-held suspicions that the disproportionately high numbers of Black abuse cases are driven by racial bias in the largely White social welfare workforce that reports abuse.

“We knew [abuse of] Black kids was reported about twice as often as it was for White kids, and we were concerned that that might be due to racism,” said Brett Drake a social work professor at Washington University and the study’s lead author. “We also knew Black kids, in terms of economics, were facing a lot of problems that most White kids were not facing.”

Using national reports and the most recent available data from the Census Bureau, the study found that of the 702,000 cases of substantiated child abuse in 2009, 44 percent involved White children who make up 75 percent of the population, and 22 percent involved Black children, who comprise 12 percent of the population. In 2009, Black children represented 21 percent of the total population of abused children.

“The problem is not that (child protective services) workers are racist,” Drake said. While the study does not preclude the possibility of a racial thread in reporting child abuse, Drake argued that the main problem is that huge numbers of Black people are living under devastating circumstances. “Mitigating poverty, and the effects of poverty, would be the most powerful way to reduce child maltreatment,” Drake said.

Drake and his colleagues found that about 17 per 1,000 Black children were abused or neglected in 2009, compared to only 9 in 1,000 White children. The study noted that almost three times as many Blacks as Whites live below the poverty line, and that economic need plays a huge role in child abuse.

Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School supports the study’s findings. “There is no good evidence Black kids are removed for reasons related to bias,” she said at a recent conference on race and child welfare hosted by Harvard. “We need to focus on prevention of maltreatment and protection of Black children as well as White,” she added.

The study is not without its critics.

Sondra Jackson, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Black Administrators in Child Welfare said that this study is yet another attempt to shift the discussion away from race and toward other causes like poverty. “People can use research to disprove stuff they don’t want to deal with,” she said.

Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR) offered critical comments about this and other studies, saying they are rife with fatal flaws in that they fail to take into account that child welfare decisions are affected by both class and racial biases, and they reinforce each other.

“Three-quarters of all “substantiated” cases of child maltreatment involve neglect,” said Wexler. He noted that state statutes typically define neglect as lack of adequate food, clothing, shelter or supervision – “the definition of poverty.” Wexler added, “It makes perfect sense that poverty, in addition to causing higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, etc. would both contribute to more actual maltreatment, if only due to the additional stress that comes with being poor, but also, more important, to the appearance of more maltreatment when the poverty itself is confused with neglect.”

Wexler and other critics have noted that since Blacks are disproportionately poor, they are disproportionately at risk for being mislabeled as guilty of neglect. “To know where the class bias leaves off and the racial bias begins, it’s necessary to use methods that control for poverty,” said Wexler. He noted that studies conducted by the NCCPR has shown that caseworkers are more likely to describe a child as “at risk” when the family is Black.

Wexler asked: “Why do these distinguished researchers believe that the bias that still is part of every facet of American life somehow disappears at the child welfare agency door, or the office of a doctor or some other mandated reporter of child abuse?” While acknowledging that he has seen improvement in attitudes about poverty and child protection, Wexler said the fact remains that so many are willing to “cop to class bias rather than be accused of racial bias is at least a small step in the right direction.”

The Washington University study also concluded that the rate of abuse among Hispanic children was proportionately higher than that of Whites but lower than that of Blacks. Researchers call it the “Hispanic Paradox.” So why is it that Hispanics, who suffer high poverty rates and poor access to health care, have fewer numbers of child abuse cases?

Researchers explain that the answer may lie in cultural factors. Drake and others have explained that Hispanic communities tend to be more child-centered and have stricter mores against the maltreatment of children than in Black communities. Polls and studies of racial attitudes have shown that many African Americans support physical discipline of children, which can sometimes lead to more serious abuse. Wexler said that understanding culturally specific factors that place Black children at risk is needed, as well as the role that poverty plays.

“Sometimes, very poor people have to make really awful decisions . . . We’re pretty darn sure that poverty is associated with abuse and neglect,” Drake said. “There is a lot of evidence that being poor is rough on people and rough on parents.” So long as our society permits such a large number of our children and young families to live in horrible economic circumstances, we can expect to see high rates of child maltreatment. Reducing current racial disproportionality in the child welfare system can be best achieved by reducing underlying risk factors that affect Black families, specifically poverty.”

And, still others call for more Blacks to be placed in administrative positions within the child welfare system and for more sensitivity training among teachers, caseworkers, and doctors.

I think that a holistic approach to child protection is necessary, one that addresses the individual, social, emotional, and physical needs of children and families. The training of social workers needs to be balanced with considerations of the role of macro-level poverty and community perspective simultaneously.

The problem of racism is still deeply ingrained and systemic in all of our institutions. Thus, the child welfare system does not exist in a vacuum, unaffected by the past and present treatment of Black people. Similar racial disparities can be found in health, employment, education and criminal justice. If there is a lack of equitable resources, if people can’t feed their children, pay their bills, or find ways out of the poverty of life, we shouldn’t be surprised to see this disturbing data on child maltreatment.

As long as we continually try to fix people rather than the institutional racism that burdens us all, the problems will persist and children will continue to be become hapless victims of the poverty of life and scores more will die.

Stacey Patton is a writer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Japan Crisis Blamed for Cancelled Nigerian Elections

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The tsunami in Japan was the latest explanation given for the failure to deliver ballots to all of Nigeria’s 150 million citizens.

Attahiru Jega, chair of the Independent National Election Commission, said the vendor’s plane carrying results sheets and ballots was diverted to carry relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Japan.

But, the botch up has prompted some activists to call for Jega’s firing.

"Prof. Jega was given almost one billion dollars to run this election - and he can't even get ballot papers printed on time? He has created a national fiasco of monumental significance," said Roland Ewubare, head of the National Human Rights Commission.

“There’s something fundamentally untoward about an electoral system that’s gobbled gargantuan funds and yet is susceptible to the kind of logistical snafus that aborted last Saturday’s polls,” said author Okey Ndibe. “Yes, democracy doesn’t come cheap. But, democracy is not simply the sum of periodic elections. Nor does it make sense to permit the ritual of voting to constitute a profoundly oppressive financial burden on a people who lack the most basic things that a human, every human, should be entitled to.”

Citizens of Africa's most populous nation are scheduled to vote next Saturday in a presidential election and for state governors the following week.

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