Back in June, L.A. Parker of the Trentonian noted that “nothing had changed” at Trenton Central High School since 2005 when a riot of hundreds of students ended with police blasting tear gas. To wit: last spring a group of students from Central High’s Ninth Grade Academy, Parker says, “produced a madding crowd on Perry St. and one attack worthy of professional wrestling cage matches on a side street as students put a sad punctuation mark on education year 2021-2022.” In the end, a 13-year-old was pinned against a chain link fence as six other classmates kicked him in his head, face, and body. The school’s response was to threaten police action and beg parents to discourage violence.
And nothing’s changed.
Yesterday Trenton High School officials issued a “shelter in place” order after two parents, Blanc Ortiz, 34, and Rafael Ortiz, 33, got into the building despite the presence of security officers and started threatening students. They were charged with terroristic threats. endangering the welfare of a child, inciting a riot, obstructing administration of law and resisting arrest. A third adult, Celeste McNeill, 24, was charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, inciting a riot, and obstructing the administration of law.
Trenton Public Schools District issued this statement:
We are calling on our TPS families to encourage their children not to use violence to resolve conflicts. These violent incidents often jeopardize the safety of innocent students and adults in our schools. As a district, we are committed to eliminating these acts of violence from the educational setting and creating a safe and secure space for teaching and learning. Our schools will not be a battleground, any student who chooses to engage in violent behavior may be permanently removed from the school setting and offered alternative educational options. As always, the safety of our staff and students will always be a top priority.
We wait with bated breath.
Last spring the Murphy Administration’s Department of Education retracted its previous approval of expansions for two highly-rated Trenton public charter schools, Achievers Early College Prep and Paul Robeson. Achievers Early had long planned to expand to 10th grade–that’s the whole mission of the school, getting students ready for college. Ninety ninth-graders were rendered educationally homeless because the DOE oversaw an evaluative process so broken that a staff member in the Charter School Office resigned because he felt he couldn’t ethically participate in the process.
“Governor Murphy is taking me away from my high school,” said Mya Harrison, a ninth grade student. “Achievers is my home and I am no longer able to finish my academic career here. Now, I need to find a new high school to attend. How is this fair to me?”
When queried, parents mourned not only the potential loss of academic growth (on the latest state tests, fewer than 10% of Trenton High students 10th-graders can read proficiently) but also the safe, nurturing environment their kids were accustomed to.
They were right to be worried. How does the Murphy Administration justify its actions? It’s a mystery. Nothing’s changed.