Brawl Kindles New Fears at Sylmar School
Teachers’ fears for their safety heightened Thursday after school police used a chemical spray to break up a fight involving more than 20 students at a junior high school where a teacher was stabbed earlier this week, authorities said.
Racial insults between black and Latino students at Olive Vista Junior High School in Sylmar sparked the lunchtime fight that ended after one teacher had been knocked to the ground and a school police officer had sprayed several students with Mace, school officials said.
“It was a riot situation,” said history teacher Mike Castillo, who was on lunch duty and tried to break up the fight. “I got pushed down from behind; they were swinging and kicking, but they didn’t hurt me.”
Teachers at the school, who have grown increasingly concerned about campus security, called for a meeting today with district officials to air their fears, school officials said. A notice offering help by district counselors for teachers suffering from “delayed reaction syndrome” is posted in the school office.
English teacher Cynthia Edwards was stabbed in the back Monday by a 15-year-old student while writing a misconduct report. She is recovering at Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, school officials said.
The student, who is being held at Sylmar Juvenile Hall, was arraigned Thursday on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a school employee and carrying a knife on campus.
One teacher, who spoke on condition that she not be identified, said she and other teachers have been receiving threats from students this week. A second school police officer who was assigned to the campus on Tuesday was not at the school Thursday.
“We are upset,” Olive View teacher Steve Harris said.
Principal Charles C. Welsh said that Monday’s stabbing has raised tensions on the campus, which had not been troubled by racial fights in the past.
“The school has become stressed,” Welsh said. “Everybody is overreacting, the kids are overreacting, and the teachers are overreacting.”
Welsh said one student allegedly made a racially offensive remark about another student’s girlfriend during the morning break. A third student overheard the disagreement and launched the lunchtime fight, he said.
Welsh said he did not know how many students will be suspended because of the incident. He said the district has promised to assign a second school police officer to the campus today.
“The teachers’ feeling is that it is a security problem, that we need more outside security,” Welsh said. “I think that we need more counseling . . . but I’m not sure even that will solve it.”