Less than a third of the freshmen at South Boston High School attended classes yesterday, as the school reopened amid tight security for the first time since 16 students were injured in an apparently racially motivated fight Thursday.
Headmaster Jerome Winegar said yesterday 81 of 240 ninth graders returned to classes--41 Blacks, 24 whites, and 16 Hispanics and American Indians.
Others said the numbers were much lower. A teacher's aide said yesterday that about 30 students attended school. John Nee, a resident near the school, said yesterday, "The buses weren't even half full" when they arrived. "I doubt that there are even 10 white kids there today," he added.
"There is some evidence of a group interested in keeping kids out of South Boston High," Winegar said yesterday. He would not say if whites were conducting an organized boycott. "That is a matter between myself and the police at the moment," he added.
Sophomores are to return today to the school--which was barred yesterday to all but freshmen and staff.
Many white students who stayed home yesterday said they would not return until the administration agreed to reinstall metal detectors, which were removed a year ago. "They guy arrested at the fight was carrying a knife," one student, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday, adding, "I'm not going back in there until I know it's safe."
The metal detectors checked students for weapons as they entered the building. School officials said removing them was important to reestablishing normal conditions at South Boston High, which has long been the focus of opposition to court-ordered desegregation.
Winegar said yesterday reinstalling the metal detectors would be regressive. "We don't want a concentration-camp atmosphere here," he said. "We have trained people who can spot potential trouble. And if a student refuses to be searched, then that student is sent home," he added.
Security was tight at South Boston High, as police kept the building under surveillance all day. A police escort accompanied the buses as they delivered and picked up the students.
Furthermore, the school is reopening gradually, with sophomores slated to come back to school today. If all goes well, juniors will return Wednesday and seniors Thursday.
Teachers and custodial staff would not answer any questions. "I'm not going to make any comment," one teacher said as she left the building. "I got a letter from my boss that said he'll be the one doing all the talking."
In a press conference yesterday, Paul Kennedy, the acting school superintendent, reaffirmed his commitment to integration and his support for Winegar.