I was appalled by The Post's depiction of Gaithersburg High School ["Calixto at a Crossroads; A 14-Year-Old Enters High School, Pulled Between Gangs and Dreams," front page, Aug. 28]. Calling our school a "gang factory" implies that our school foster gangs, which it does not. Furthermore, it was unfair to single out Gaithersburg High and not mention that other public high schools in the county face similar problems.
I have many Latino friends who consistently make the honor roll, have clean records, love our school and feel safe in it. Never have I heard people express fear for their safety in this school. The atmosphere has no effect on the bad decisions that some students make. As a person, you choose your friends.
Although I wish I could say that everyone in our school is decent and civilized, some students are inclined to participate in uncivilized conduct. That is a reflection of their personal choices and their history.
-- Pooja Patel
The writer is a senior at Gaithersburg High School.
Regarding the unfair characterization of Gaithersburg High School in your recent, lengthy story: Reporter Darragh Johnson calls the school a "gang factory" based on comments from people who don't appear to be quoted.
To label this school in such a negative way the day before school begins without providing any balance or any rebuttal is not responsible journalism. Gaithersburg High has an excellent security team and an exceptional new principal who will do a great job of helping students achieve at high levels. Principal Darryl Williams met with Latino parents immediately after his appointment in July to discuss many of the issues discussed in this article. He highlighted the mentoring and support programs and demonstrated his commitment to helping the community address this issue. None of that was portrayed in this story.
Addressing the gang issue successfully will take a united community effort involving the schools, police, the county government and, most of all, parents. It is not a problem that will be solved overnight, but it is one that all of us are committed to solving.
As for Gaithersburg High School, the administration has a zero-tolerance policy for gang activity and aggressively works to prevent it and to guide these teenagers in making good decisions and more productive choices.
-- Patricia B. O'Neill
Montgomery County Board of Education
I am the parent of two Gaithersburg High School students and one graduate. My 12th-grader is on the field hockey and swim teams, is a yearbook editor, is president of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), takes college institute classes and has a 3.71 GPA. My ninth-grader plays field hockey and participates in the drama program, Key Club and SADD.
My oldest daughter, a 2004 graduate, was captain of the field hockey team and secretary of the Key Club, won an award for community service, graduated with a 3.8 GPA, and is an honors student at Towson University.
My children are Hispanic. Why didn't you choose to follow them around?
They've never been in (or even near) a gang, they've never been in trouble, they do what they're supposed to and more. I guess good kids doing good things at Gaithersburg High wouldn't make a very good front-page story.
-- Julie E. Klinkner
Congratulations. The Post is helping to solve two of Montgomery County's most intractable problems: the shortage of affordable housing and school overcrowding, as your story virtually guarantees that parents with the means will flee the Gaithersburg High School cluster rather than send their children into the war zone described.
Your reporter has done the city of Gaithersburg, and the students, parents, teachers and administrators of Gaithersburg High School, a tremendous disservice that demands remediation.
That remedy could start with devoting as much ink as you devoted to gangs to the many hard-working, high-achieving, talented students who show up each day eager to learn and who are met at the door by teachers equally eager to help them grow as students and as human beings.
Gaithersburg High School is not without its problems, and some gang activity does spill over from the larger community into the school. Certainly there are students who feel marginalized, who are torn between cultures or who struggle to fit in, but there are resources for them and good people working to improve the lives of all our kids.
Furthermore, recent immigrants couldn't find a more accepting student body, because virtually all Gaithersburg High students have grown up in a multicultural community. That's the school that deserves The Post's attention, including the Calixtos who might be persuaded to turn their backs on gangs.
-- Corinne Kuypers-Denlinger
The writer is the parent of a Gaithersburg High School senior.