Reading mayor, church leaders call for end to violence in city schools

At least 9 students cited, 2 injured in pair of fights at Citadel on Thursday, police say

Reading mayor calls for end to violence in city schools

READING, Pa. - Enough is enough. That's the message Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer is sending to city school students looking for a fight.

Spencer joined the city's religious leaders outside Reading Intermediate High School -- the Citadel -- as students arrived for classes Friday morning. Extra police officers were also on hand.

Their presence comes a day after a large fight broke out among students over a seat in the school cafeteria, police said. Two students were injured; six were cited, including one who was hauled away in handcuffs for inciting a riot.

"He got mad and said, 'Don't touch me. Don't touch me,' and one of the south members came and hit the other kid," said Ceferno Cortez, an 8th grade student

Another fight erupted after school Thursday, said police, adding that at least three more students were slapped with citations.

Police were also called earlier this week for a pair of fights in the senior high school cafeteria.

"There's this south-side/north-side issue going on, and fights were occurring," said Spencer. "A lot of it was stuff occurring outside of school and managed to find its way into the school."

Spencer and the church leaders were present again outside the Citadel at dismissal time. They're also calling on parents to stand watch on a daily basis outside the school during the students' arrival and dismissal.

"The presence of adults around children lets them know that we do care," said Bishop Jerald Prentice Jr., of Reading.

"We're going to work together to try and solve the problem," said Dennis Campbell, the Citadel's principal.

The Reading Education Association -- the teachers' union -- on Friday released a statement regarding the school violence.

"It is our earnest opinion that the reductions in staffing for security personnel and city police at the Citadel have contributed to the ongoing violence there," said Bryan Sanguinito, president of the REA. "Overcrowded classrooms and excessive temperatures in our buildings throughout the district are only exacerbating tensions."

The REA on Friday announced the development of a new parent-educator coalition -- CHOSEN: Cuts Hurt Our Students' Educational Needs.

The coalition will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the violence and seek community input as to how to address it. The meeting will be held at the Hopewell Mennonite Church, S. 6th and Cherry streets, from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tues., Sept. 25.

Anyone planning to attend the meeting is asked to RSVP by calling the Reading Education Association's office at 610-374-7101.

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