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Teachers, parents concerned about violence at Reading schools

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Sep 25 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 26 2012 05:01:54 AM CDT

Teachers, parents concerned about violence at schools

READING, Pa. -

Tuesday night people came together to say the violence in Reading schools has to stop. The teachers' union hosted a town hall education meeting on the subject.

And the residents and educators who met did more than just identify the problem. They wanted to pitch in and do something about it.

They met at the Hopewell Mennonite Church. Many people shared personal stories about their kids and what they go through every day just going to school in Reading.

"It's almost constantly every day where she's saying she hates it there," said Jessica Cedeno, a parent. "Many times she'll say, 'can you just homeschool me?'"

One of Jessica Cedeno's daughters goes to the Citadel intermediate high school, where on September 12th there was a fight in the cafeteria.

At the Reading Education Association's Town Hall meeting, Mayor Vaughn Spencer said the fight at the school was gang-related: Northside versus Southside.

"Kids should feel safe going to school," said Spencer during the meeting.

Spencer said he's been in the Citadel, and things have settled down. But Cedeno is still concerned.

"They might have a little handle on it, but it's not. It's not completely under control now," said Cedeno.

At the meeting, dozens came out to share their ideas about controlling the violence.

"I would be happy to sit in the cafeteria or one of the classrooms," said a woman without kids in the district.

Everything from having seniors eat lunch everyday in the high school to setting up safety corridors when kids walk home was discussed. A parent and part-time security guard at Reading High, Cicily Chaparro, explained it is possible to handle the gangs.

"We can break it up. Once you talk to one of them they get this guilt trip like oh my God she knows I'm in this gang. She knows I'm doing something bad," said Chaparro.

At the town hall, ideas were numerous, but people-- not so much. Everyone agreed they would like to see more next time.

"It's out of fear," said Chaparro, "A lot of people don't come and they're scared. And they're terrified. That's what hurts the most."

"I honestly hope that everybody can get together and make it better for the children and make it easier for the parents to feel comfortable going into their children's school and saying hey I want to help where do you need me?" said Cedeno.

The teachers' union president asked the two school board members in attendance to take these concerns to their meeting Wednesday night.