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Media see violence up close at D.C. schools


School chief promises action

December 4, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Charter public schools in the nation's capital are on the defensive after three journalists reported being attacked as they tried to cover stories.


Susan Ferrechio, an education reporter for the Washington Times, said she was physically ejected from Marcus Garvey Public Charter School by the principal and students.

Ferrechio said she working on a story Tuesday about the alternative schools, and was assaulted after refusing to hand over her notebook.

"The group that surrounded us started to push and punch me and pull my hair and shake me around," Ferrechio said.

But the school principal said the reporter was out of line, speaking to students without permission and getting physical with her.


"She pushed me in the chest ... and said, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute, let's talk, let's talk, I need to speak to you,'" said principal Mary Anigbo.

"She grabbed my arm..." the principal said. "... I had three of my teen-age boys eject her from the building."

Tuesday's incident was only the latest problem involving journalists. Last month, a radio reporter was beaten outside McKinley High School in northeast Washington while working on a story about two stabbings at the school.

An audio tape captured the conflict.

icon (94K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound) etter

"They're like taking turns kicking," said WTOP radio reporter Alan Etter.

icon (102K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Days before that, a television cameraman was pushed and shoved while trying to report on another stabbing at the same school.

School chief promises action

Retired Gen. Julius Becton, recently named the schools' chief executive officer by a congressionally appointed control board, said he planned to increase security in city schools, and would consider armed guards.


"If -- that's a big if -- there is such violence in a certain school, we will do whatever is necessary to ensure a safe environment," Becton said.

The unusual violence targeting journalists comes in a school system where assaults have nearly doubled over the last year. A recent report found 11 percent of Washington high school students said they avoided school in the past 30 days because they felt unsafe.

"We have teachers ... afraid to go to work. We have students ... afraid to go to class," said Barbara Bullock of Washington Teachers Union.


Nationwide, education experts say violence at schools is up, but it's hard to quantify because of poor or non-existent record-keeping. One figure is firm: 165 students have been killed in schools over the past four years.

"The schools are a mirror of the community, and the community is a violent community. America is not a peaceful place to live," said Timothy Dyer, of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Correspondent Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.


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