In Philadelphia, a Principal Orders: 'Stop the Violence!'

It's almost a year since John Chapman, the burly self-described ex-"hoodlum" who headed the school district's crisis team, arrived at University City High School, a place overwhelmed by fighting and assaults.

Today, Chapman is the school's principal, but he has yet another crisis on his hands.

"You've got to stop this madness!" Chapman reportedly told students there yesterday, in announcing the arrest of four seniors in a videotaped assault that has shocked the city. "Stop the violence!"

Yesterday, police vans and several police cars were parked outside the school as students were dismissed. One teacher told the Daily News that that is a regular sight at University City, where a year ago several teachers were assaulted.

Now, the arrests of the youths - charged with pummeling a 30-year-old Drexel grad student from Haiti on Friday afternoon - not only has made national headlines but has again roiled the problem-plagued school, sending shockwaves across the West Philly neighborhood and the Drexel campus.

At least Chapman won't have to worry about dealing with the four students, who were expelled on Monday. They are charged with attempted murder and related charges.

Tyrez Osborne, 18, the only adult suspect, is slated for a preliminary hearing tomorrow. The three other youths are 17. Two of them will go to trial in Family Court Feb. 3. A trial date for the the third wasn't available last night.

Police said the youths rapped violent lyrics on the tape they made with a handheld video camera, and talked about beating up somebody at random. They encountered the Drexel student about 1:15 p.m. Friday on 36th Street near Spring Garden. One of the youths was taped throwing a punch that dislocated the stunned student's jaw and sent him to Presbyterian Hospital.

The victim, whose name has not been released and who has not been cooperating with police, is out of the hospital and now apparently has moved from his residence and into a Drexel residence hall. It is not clear whether he will follow through on a vow he had made to authorities to return to Haiti.

While the victim is not speaking, Mae Osborne, the mother of Tyrez Osborne, lashed out last night, insisting that her son is innocent. She said she was mad that his picture has been displayed in newspapers and on television.

"Tyrez hit nobody," she said. "When they show the video, they will not see Tyrez hitting anyone. He told me that when he got into that video, they were dashing past him, saying, 'Man, I want to get a body' and 'Let's go get a body.' When they said that about getting a body, Tyrez says he was in front of them. He wasn't running with them."

A fellow senior, Mark Williams, 17, said yesterday that Osborne wasn't a known troublemaker - a "decent" student who made B's and C's and who likes playing pickup games of basketball and football. He said Osborne even was talking about going to college and had expressed an interest in Penn State.

"I don't know what's going to happen to that now," Williams said.

Teachers said yesterday they at least hope the publicity over the beating will lead to even better security measures. Chapman said he is investigating.

"The tension and the incidence of violence has escalated during the course of the school year," said Jeff Rosenberg, a health and physical-education teacher who is also the building rep for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

"It interferes with our learning climate. It just makes it very difficult to focus on why we're there."

But it also has caused problems in the surrounding community.

Bernard Gollotti, Drexel senior associate vice president for public safety, said the school spends about $3 million annually on security, has 245 video cameras of its own inside and outside campus buildings, and contracts with city police for extra patrols.

None of that would have made a difference Friday, he noted.

Gollotti called the beating incident "very unusual," adding that "not only was it in the middle of the day, [but] they left school early and planned to do something, no matter who it was." He noted that police arrested three suspects shortly after the assault.

Coincidentally, the nearby University of Pennsylvania announced a $5 million "infusion" into its security budget on Sunday. Maureen Rush, vice president for public safety, said the increase to a $28 million annual budget means the university will hire 15 police officers and increase lighting.

Any type of added security can't come quickly enough for residents of the area of 36th and Spring Garden, a mixture of well-kept rowhouses and stately homes converted to student rentals, bordered by weather-beaten red-brick sidewalks. They said the calm there is shattered each afternoon, around the time the school is dismissed.

"The residents of this neighborhood are not the problem," said resident Joseph Clark, who described watching a young girl beaten as she emerged from a grocery several months ago.

"The intruders are."

Philadelphia Daily News


Knight Ridder content Copyright 2005 provided via The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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