The best way to deter gang and racial violence at Leuzinger High School is to have armed Sheriff's deputies on or around the campus during the school day, school officials told a group of students and parents.
But axle grease on the fence might help too.
Centinela Valley Union School District officials, prompted by a gang-related brawl at Leuzinger on Sept. 16, are searching for ways to stem violence and ensure the safety of students.
They have installed a 24-hour information hot line and are considering using hand-held metal detectors year-round. Other proposals for coping with violence range from installing a new public address system and creating a detention area for troublesome students to enforcing a stricter dress code. One administrator suggested coating the wrought-iron fence that surrounds the school with axle grease so intruders cannot climb over.
The brawl at the Lawndale school led to the arrest of seven youths, including at least five Leuzinger students, but no charges have been filed against them. Ten students have been suspended from school.
The melee, which involved blacks and Latinos, was apparently started by several Latino gang members in retaliation for an off-campus shooting Sept. 14 that left one Latino dead, officials said.
Although some students, school officials and parents say that armed officers will help keep racial tensions in check, most agree that fights will probably erupt again.
"You, as administrators, do your best . . . (but) it's beyond your control," parent John Dragone told Supt. Joseph M. Carrillo, Leuzinger Principal Sonja Davis and a panel of teachers, student leaders and school board members at a meeting Sept. 22.
The panel agreed but said they faced serious problems in reacting to incidents like the brawl, including limited access to first aid equipment, broken internal and external public address systems, and no drill for students and teachers to practice lock-down procedures, which are used in case of a major disturbance.
During a lock-down, teachers are supposed to go to their designated rooms, account for all students, lock the classroom doors and wait until administrators give approval for building-by-building dismissal, school officials said.
Some parents complained that they were not informed about procedures to pick up students after they have been dismissed from a lock-down.
Other parents said their children, trying to seek safety from the fight, were locked out of classrooms.
"My daughter said she went from room to room, looking for a place to go," said Gurtrude Heisser. Her daughter, she said, finally made her way into an open classroom.
Parents say that many of the proposed solutions are only stopgap measures.
"No matter how high a fence you have, people are going to get in or out," said parent Lois Brown, who has two sons at Leuzinger.
Some parents fault the parents of the youths involved in the brawl for the incident.
"No matter how much security you have, it won't help because parents need to teach their kids that they are there to learn," parent Elizabeth Klemick said.
Carrillo said a plan to implement some of the proposals would be ready this week.