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Pinpointing Washington Prep's Problems

November 26, 2002

It is no coincidence that stories about crime sprees in South Los Angeles ("16 Shooting Victims Will 'Never Have That Chance' for Dreams") and a story about Washington Prep High, a school out of control in South L.A., appear at the same time (Nov. 21). As a resident of South L.A. who teaches at a different South L.A. high school, I can say that a large minority of young people here lack respect for themselves, which then extends to lack of respect for others. Hence we have rampant graffiti and violence perpetrated by young people who lack a moral compass.

We are all to blame. The young people cannot be excused because of their age. They are responsible for their actions. Parents who fail to instill what most of us consider common values are to blame as well, perhaps because they also lack these values, perhaps because they have been unable to teach them to their children. The rest of us who live and/or work in the city are also to blame because we have been unable to show these youths a better way. Chief William Bratton, I am angry! Many of us are. You were hired to improve the situation. I await the day I can run through my neighborhood without seeing omnipresent tagging or being hassled by gangsters or wannabes. Show us the way.

Todd Engle

Los Angeles

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The problems at Washington Prep did not just begin this year. This is an endemic situation that has been flagrantly ignored. Only when principals are willing to permanently expel repeated disciplinary-problem students (three strikes?) and parents can bring personal suit against school officials for failure to provide a safe and productive learning environment will this change.

Daniel Levy

Santa Barbara

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As someone who left teaching two years ago after having taught at Washington Prep for 25 years, let me make a suggestion. Keep your story on file. You can run it over and over again, after making the appropriate name changes, every few years. Nothing is going to change because there is no political will to do what needs to be done.

I am always reminded of the only solution to the problem each time I run into one of the so-called "troublemakers" I tried to teach. We always smile and shake hands. Why? Because we are individuals; we relate as human beings. Put kids into a class with close to 40 others and that basic human bond breaks down. All the state needs to do is cut class size by one half and miracles will occur. But where is the politician who will campaign to do this? Taxes would have to be raised. And because this idea is politically dead on arrival, our society will pay the price for decades to come.

John Horne

Redondo Beach

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The members of the school board are the culprits here. They should have seen to the firing of the principal. The replacement principal should be ordered to nail the parents or guardians of out-of-control kids. It won't be easy, but if a school has to be run like a reform school, then that's the way it should be.

Joe Denker

Studio City

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