Inside one of the country's most dangerous schools, there are fights, threats, hope

ANGELA PASCOPELLA's picture
Monday, June 3, 2013

School police officers at Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia begin every morning with a prayer. "We must save the children," one of them said, head bowed.

The officers then take their posts to watch for razor blades in tin foil, knives in backpacks and Vaseline on students' faces, which is used to prevent scratches during fights. As the students enter the building, they have to file through metal detectors, some even emptying their pockets before being cleared to go to class.

"This is a dangerous school," said 15-year-old Julissa. "A lot of fights pop off over nothing, so you got to be safe."

Strawberry Mansion High, where 94 security cameras line the halls, had 435 students at the beginning of this school year. Located in a poor neighborhood with a high crime rate, Strawberry Mansion has been on the state of Pennsylvania's "Persistently Dangerous Schools" list for the past five years.

ABC News' Diane Sawyer and ABC News producers followed the daily lives of the school's students and faculty during the 2012-2013 school year. So far this school year, there have been 49 incidents from fires to teacher attacks reported in or near the school. ABC News' cameras captured students brawling in the cafeteria and being bullied, as well as students who shared their dreams of going to college.

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