Matters of Principal, David Weinraub
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Excerpt from Matters of Principal II

   If the riot was repulsive, the aftermath was appalling. The school officials, it seemed, were trying to cover their ass and looking for a way to minimize any responsibility they might have for what happened. Shortly after the kids started to go to class, Dr. Butler arrived, as did Superintendent Roedel. They asked Dan to recount what he knew.
   At that point, Dan didn't know very much about the underlying reasons, so he reported what had happened, from when he first found out what was going on outside. He did describe the sting the police pulled off the previous day and told Roedel and Butler he suspected today's outburst was a reaction to what happened yesterday. While the three of them were talking, the media was clamoring for a statement from the school district and Dan asked Mrs. Lowell to have them escorted to the west auditorium, where they'd have a chance to talk with someone soon.
Since they didn't know very much, the three-way conversation turned to who was going to talk to the media. Butler and Roedel were both weighing the plusses and minuses, knowing full well there might be a national media distribution of this conference. As they were all in the same room, Butler didn't have the opportunity to offer her usual sage advice to her intimate friend, Roedel, so it was left to the superintendent to make the call.
   While asking some more innocuous questions to stall a bit, Roedel glanced at Butler and caught the almost imperceptible negative shake of her head. That was enough to key his decision.
   Turning to Tabas, the superintendent said, "You know, Dan, I think it would be presumptuous of me to talk about a situation of which I know very little. After all, I'm downtown and you're here, so I think you should talk to the media, unless you want to do it, Josephine?"
   "No, Dr. Roedel, I think that's the right call. Dan knows the situation better than we do."
   On his way to the auditorium, Dan thought, Yeah, I know the situation and you both know that someone's head might have to roll here and it ain't gonna be yours. Dan slowed down his walk, to allow himself more time to think of how to play this. When he entered the auditorium, however, he wasn't prepared to see about twenty different people, including camera men and radio sound guys. His only thought at that point was, Damn!
   He walked slowly to the front of the auditorium, amid a clamor of questions being yelled out. Upon reaching a lectern in the front, he held up the palms of both hands, until there was quiet.
   "My name is Dan Tabas and I'm the principal here at East. I don't think I know much more than you do at this point, but here's what I do know. Three girls were on their way to school this morning and, about a half-block away, they were jumped by a group of people. By the way, I use the word people, instead of students, because right now I don't know how many of the combatants were students at our school.
   "Once that happened, others rushed to their defense and then the number of fighters continued to get larger and larger. I understand that ten or twelve people were taken to the hospital by the police and EMT units. As far as I know, none of the injuries is life- threatening. By the way, I'd like to thank the Philadelphia Police Department and our security staff for their very quick and restrained response. I'll now take questions."
   "Do you know why they were attacked?"
   "Not specifically, but there was a police action yesterday, which resulted in some arrests, and today's problems may be an aftermath."
   "Why was there a police action?"
   "I understand it was to head off an ongoing feud between two groups of girls." 

   "How long has the feud been going on?" 
   "A few years…"
   "Is that usual?"
   "It's not unusual."
   "Are the girls usually this violent?"
   "It's not unusual."
   "How come the worst violence usually occurs at East Philly?"
   Dan was now really upset. "Violence usually occurs at many, if not most, inner-city neighborhood high schools, at one time or another, across the country. Some school districts are more adept at keeping everything as quiet as possible, without information getting to the public. It's my contention that you can't fix anything, until you admit you have a problem and we certainly have a problem. I could probably go on for about an hour or a day about why we have these problems and what we should do about them, but that's not the purpose of this gathering."
   "Is school going to be dismissed and is it safe?"
   "School is in session and students are going to all their regular classes. We wouldn't allow school to continue, if there was any current danger. Of course, there's no way to predict what's going to happen five minutes from now, but I hope that parents will trust us to make the right decision. Thank you all for your attention."

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