S. Tahoe High principal calls for task force due to violence
Tribune staff writer
In response to escalating violence possibly caused by gang activity at South Tahoe High School, Principal Ivone Larson wants to form a community task force to address the issue.
Since the school year began on Sept. 5, 32 fights have broken out, with the most serious occurring last week when two conflicts led to a false report of a gun on campus, a campus lockdown, an injured assistant principal and six suspensions.
Last year during the same time period, only 10 fights were recorded on campus.
School officials, including Larson, said gang activity and disagreements formed outside of school have prompted the fights this school year.
“We’re taking a look at some fighting between gangs … We’re seeing students who don’t seem to be caring about school,” Larson said.
Assistant Principal Jack Stafford, who twisted his back trying to break up a fight Nov. 20 and was out all last week, believes the problem boils down to a lack of campus security.
At one point this year, there were no campus security officers, Stafford said. Now there are two, he added.
“I just think we’ve been understaffed,” Stafford said. “It’s nobody’s fault … I’ll tell you right now when kids know you’re watching them they won’t do anything.”
Stafford said one particular gang, Eastside Familia, has made its presence known on campus. While other gangs such as the Southside 13 have quieted, the Eastside Familia embraces the mentality of anybody who is not with them is against them, Stafford said.
A majority of the students involved in such fights are good children, according to Delicia Spees, director of the Family Resource Center, which may house a forum on the matter today.
“Ninety percent of them are very nice kids,” Spees said. “They’re just lost. They’re great kids. I’ve known most of them (since) they were little. They’re kids who need more recreation, stimulation. They need more one-on-one.”
Scott Wilson, a South Lake Tahoe police officer assigned to the school, could not be reached for comment. However, Chief Terry Daniels said the department swiftly acts on reports of gang activity.
Daniels cited the steps taken to squash the emergence of the Southside 13 gang several years ago.
A gang-suppression team of four officers conducted sweeps and visits to homes and schools. After awhile, the task force was reduced to two officers then disbanded.
“We’re not going to tolerate it,” Daniels said. “The reason why we don’t have gang problems here is because we don’t let them take root.”
Daniels said he has not received much information on the Eastside Familia. Meanwhile, the investigation into the Nov. 20 campus melee is continuing.
“We’re still working on this,” Stafford said. “I’m not going to be happy until we’ve explored every lead and turned over every stone because I don’t like this sort of activity.”
The first step in addressing the problem with a wide audience – including parents, school officials and law enforcement personnel – is scheduled today at 5:30 p.m. at either the Family Resource Center or the multi-purpose room of Bijou Community School.
Spees hopes 30 to 40 parents will show up for the meeting, as well as students and whoever is interested. She is among those applauding Larson’s efforts.
“I think it’s a positive thing,” she said. “We just need to just open up and see why this is all coming up.”
Larson is scheduled to provide a report on the unrest at the high school and recommend the formation of a community task force to the Lake Tahoe School district Board of Education meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at South Tahoe Middle School’s multipurpose room.