Digital Harbor holds meeting to calm community

Digital Harbor High School staff and police met with parents Tuesday evening to reassure the community that they are taking steps to ensure that children are safe in the classroom and on their way home.

Baltimore police are deploying officers around the Federal Hill school for the next two weeks after threats and violent attacks on Latino students.

Many of the roughly 50 parents who attended were Latinos. Some asked what was being done to make sure their students could board their buses without being attacked or having their cellphones stolen — a recurring problem this year, they said.

School and police officials said personnel would be stationed near bus stops down the hill from the campus to help prevent violence. They encouraged parents to tell their children to keep their cellphones out of view.

After the meeting, students, staff and police signed a pledge to use nonviolent means to solve problems.

A large banner read "#OneBmore." A dozen volunteers from CASA de Maryland wore T-shirts that had been designed long ago as part of its campaign to try to bring harmony to frayed relationships between African-Americans and Latinos in the community. The T-shirts read "Black Love, Brown Pride, Open Hearts."

CASA volunteers visited the school cafeteria during lunches on Tuesday to talk to students and gather signatures for a poster that read: "I pledge to resolve my differences without resorting to violence." They attended a news conference Monday to talk about violence in the community.

The efforts come after a week of racial tension between Latino and African-Americans across the city.

A Latino student was injured in a fight with a black student last Wednesday, police said.

On Memorial Day, a 15-year-old Mexican student who had dropped out of high school was robbed and killed in Southwest Baltimore. Detectives believe the person who shot Oscar Torres was African-American.

On Thursday, a Digital Harbor student was hospitalized after another student cut his face with a belt buckle. Both the victim and the attackers were Hispanic, according to CASA officials.

Police descended on the area late last week, and helicopters circled Federal Hill.

The school's principal, Brian Eyer, said staff and students have discussed the problems of the past week. He said he believes the tension is easing.

Eyer said he hopes to beef up the school's anti-bullying message over the summer and to make changes that will lead to greater awareness of other cultures.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin George contributed to this article.

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