Racial tension grows in Eagle Point

EAGLE POINT — The fallout from a brawl involving white and Hispanic teens two weeks ago has some parents of Eagle Point High School students worried the violence could spill onto campus.

Eagle Point High School Principal Allen Barber (Correction: See below.) said the school has been bombarded with calls from concerned parents since the airing of a television news story detailing the Jan. 12 fight, which happened off school grounds.

The fight between Hispanic and white youths involved some Eagle Point High School students and others who do not attend the school, Barber said.

After the fight, tensions rose because of messages posted on Myspace and text messages sent between students, said Sheryl Compton, whose children attend Eagle Point High School.

"It's a mess in Eagle Point right now," Compton said.

According to Compton, some students posted a Myspace message declaring they would wear brown to school to show Hispanic pride.

In response, a number of white students forwarded text messages to each other saying they would wear white to celebrate "white pride," Compton said.

Among those who forwarded the text was her 14-year-old son. He then was punished by school officials for his actions, Compton said.

"He was suspended for four- and-a-half days over this," she said. "My son is not a racist. He has friends of every color."

Barber said "three or four" students were spoken to by school officials over the texts, which he described as "harassing" in nature.

He did not comment on any disciplinary actions taken toward any student.

"We have actually had a quiet two weeks on campus," Barber said. "There have been no fights between these groups."

A letter sent to parents last week said the school has taken measures to ensure the safety of students. In addition, the letter said fights on school grounds have dropped this year as compared to last year at this time.

"We have had eight fights so far this year," Barber said. "We had 13 just in the first quarter last year."

Compton said her children told her tensions between Hispanic and white students remain high and that school officials have done little to alleviate the problems.

"I'm half tempted to pull my kids from this school district," Compton said. "This event has caused a large separation in Eagle Point."

Barber said the school takes problematic Internet and text messages seriously and will intervene before things go too far.

He said there is no evidence supporting an upcoming fight between students.

"Anytime you have a large student body such as we have there will be tensions among the students," Barber said. "Some of the parents are quite concerned, but we feel we have been proactive in dealing with these situations."

Correction: Eagle Point High School Principal Allen Barber's name was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. This version has been corrected.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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