Jesse L. Jackson dropped his demand that six students expelled for a fight at a football game be allowed back in school, saying he would support moving them immediately into alternative education classes, a proposal that apparently won the backing of state officials.
Earlier, Jackson had rejected a school board offer to cut the students' two-year expulsions to one year and put them in alternative school for the year. He said he wanted them reenrolled immediately.
"If alternative school is part of a grander scheme in getting the kids back into the school system, that's acceptable," Jackson said today. He said he wanted those eligible to graduate this year to still be able to do so.
Six students were expelled for allegedly taking part in a brawl in the stands at a football game at Eisenhower High School on Sept. 17. A seventh student was threatened with expulsion but withdrew from school first.
The three high schools in this blue-collar city were closed for security reasons Monday and Tuesday as Jackson led protests on behalf of the expelled students. The schools reopened today, with police checking students' identification. No incidents were reported, but 41 percent of students stayed home.
The expelled students are all black, but Jackson has said fairness is more at issue than race.
Jackson said he met with state school Superintendent Glenn "Max" McGee at a hotel tonight, and the two talked by telephone with Gov. George Ryan (R). Jackson and McGee said they all agreed on a plan that could put individual students back in regular schools in less than a year if they did well at the alternative schools.
Jackson said the plan included the creation of an outside review board to determine the students' ultimate punishment.
On Tuesday, four people accused in the brawl were charged with mob action, a felony, which Jackson said "will only make matters worse." The four included two of those who were expelled and the student who withdrew. The fourth was not a student at the time of the fight.
CAPTION: Jesse L. Jackson leads students to police barricade in Decatur, Ill., where high schools reopened with ID checks.