Pasadena: Community reaches out to Marshall

Pasadena Star-News, CA
March 31 2004

Community reaches out to Marshall
Students urged to work toward ending racial violence

By Gretchen Hoffman , Staff Writer

PASADENA — Community members urged students to open their minds to
diversity and take control of their school at cultural awareness
assemblies held Tuesday in response to fights earlier this month at
Marshall Fundamental High School.

A dozen students were suspended then transferred out of Marshall
after fights broke out March 5 and three students were injured . Nine
of the students were also cited by Pasadena Unified School District
police, and the school was locked down for hours.

The altercations started with a fight between two students, an
Armenian American and an African American who had been suspended
earlier in the week for fighting, and expanded to include others.

Students, parents and school officials have repeatedly stressed that
it was a fight between individuals rather than a racial issue, but
community meetings since then have stressed the need for better
interracial relations at the school and in the community at large.

“We’re very concerned when you draw lines and say, ‘ I’m on this
side, you’re on that side,’ ‘ PUSD Assistant Superintendent George
McKenna said at the assembly.

“If two people fight and 10 people watch, 12 people are guilty,’
McKenna said. “They’re participating and permitting the existence of

McKenna said community leaders have been meeting and will form a
coalition to focus on events at the school. Leaders will return to
the school in two weeks after spring break to solicit input from
students, he said.

Krikor Satamian, chairman of the Pasadena Armenian Police Advisory
Council, told students to embrace the diversity found at Marshall.

“This is the time for you to learn about other people,’ Satamian
said. “Get along with people that’s your advantage here and that’s
what will help you when you leave here.’

Local real estate broker Aaron Abdus Shakoor told students to
remember that, despite racial or ethnic differences, everyone comes
from “one family.’

“When you’re talking and the conflict arises, try to sit down,’ Abdus
Shakoor said. “It’s very difficult to fight when you’re sitting

The school is continuing its conflict- resolution programs, which
were in place before the recent fights, and officials urged students
to take responsibility for keeping the peace at Marshall.

“I think there are too many young people going to jail and I want it
to stop,’ PUSD Police Chief Mike Trevis said. “You’ve got the power
to make it stop. You see people dogging each other, say ‘Hey, stop it
now.’ ‘

Suzanne Berberian, a community liaison specialist with the PUSD, said
bridges have been built between various segments of the community
over the past few weeks.

“I see a bright future because I see us as a school community coming
together,’ Berberian said. “It brought us together and made all of us
pay attention to each other.’