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Meeting Addresses Racial Tensions : Education: Discussion among parents of Latino and black students at San Clemente High, police and school district officials is prompted by two fights.


SAN CLEMENTE — The parents of a group of Latino and black students met with police and school district officials at San Clemente High School on Thursday to try to resolve ongoing racial tensions. The meeting was quickly organized by district officials after two separate fights among the students this week.

On Monday, 12 students--9 Latinos and three blacks--were involved in a fight on campus after school, said William D. Eller, associate superintendent. No one was seriously injured, and 10 of the students were suspended, Eller said.

Two days later, a small scuffle took place before school when the mother of one of the black students escorted her son to school armed with a baseball bat, said Sgt. Richard Corder of the San Clemente Police Department.

"The woman told us that she was concerned for her son's safety," Coder said. "He had been telling her that he was being beaten up by some of the Hispanic students and was afraid to go to school by himself."

Police and district officials said racial tension between the two groups has been on the rise for the past two years.

"We have some kids who don't like each other because of the color of their skin," said Dr. Loren O'Connor, the school's psychologist. "This has just escalated between some of the black students and the Hispanic students. You will have Hispanic kids say (derogatory) remarks to black kids and vice versa. It goes back and forth."

The number of black and Latino students attending the school has steadily increased in the past five years. Of the school's 2,105 students, 284 are Latino and 89 are black, according to the Orange County Department of Education.

"No one is trying to (say) that there aren't problems," said O'Connor, who participated in Thursday's meeting. "But I think it is a very small group. I don't want to minimize it, but it's not a major problem."

Police were called to the school last year after a fight involving black, Latino and white students broke out during a school dance. The six students involved were suspended, Eller said.

Although there has been simmering tension, both district officials and police said there have been few violent incidents.

"Every once in awhile it escalates a little bit and we get it under control," Corder said. "We're trying to get everything calmed down."

Officials from Camp Pendleton also participated in Thursday night's meeting since some of the black students involved in the altercations are from the military base.

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