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Resident, employee agitated by students

Incident blown out of proportion, principal says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An after-school hangout for local youth has become a source of annoyance, but officials said complaints are being blown out of proportion. Auburn resident Kathy Richardson said she was in her truck outside the FedEx Office store on Grass Valley Highway Thursday, when several youths began to fight. Richardson said the kids, who she believed were E.V. Cain students, were calling each other racial slurs such as the “n word” and honkie. Richardson also said a smaller boy was being beaten up, including being hit in the mouth. Richardson said the kids were throwing their lunchboxes in the air, and they were falling on people’s vehicles. One of the boys reportedly jumped on the front of her truck. “Our car was surrounded by kids beating each other up and throwing things on other cars,” Richardson said. “We were afraid to go inside because we were afraid they would slash our tires or something, because these kids are out of control. I don’t think the people in FedEx should have to put up with this nor should the people who work there.” Richardson said the language she reportedly heard offended her. “I don’t know why they are talking like that, but it should not be allowed, because it’s not good for the kids to allow that kind of mouthy yelling at each other,” she said. “It wasn’t like a gang with guns or anything, but it was a gang of kids.” Richardson said the boy who was hit didn’t look like he was play fighting. “This kid’s face was all red, and they had him by the neck,” she said. “They punched him in the face, and he was running away. He was running around the back of cars and they were banging into cars as they were doing this. There were two bigger boys acting like rottweilers yelling at the little one. This kid was running for his life.” E.V. Cain Principal Randy Ittner, said he and Vice Principal Steve Schaffer go down to the parking lot several times a week to make sure students aren’t doing what they shouldn’t be. Ittner said the day Richardson was in front of FedEx there were 20 students hanging out that were not E.V. Cain kids. Ittner said he and Schaffer interviewed the three children Richardson saw in the reported fight, and the boy who was allegedly hit said they were play punching and no one hit him in the mouth. Ittner said the boys said no racial slurs were being used. “Every kid we talked to said no,” Ittner said. “These are some of our Gifted and Talented Education (G.A.T.E.) kids. (They were) two of the nicest kids I talk to every day, I was shocked. We got down there right away, and we go down there three or four days a week.” FedEx has never made an effort to get in touch with the school about any problems, Ittner said. “They have never called me, ever,” he said. “All the other stores, we have gone down there and talked to them.” Schaffer said the school does ask parents to pick their students up on school grounds to avoid congestion in the center’s parking lot. “We do always encourage parents to pick their kids up at the bus lane,” Schaffer said. Ittner said the school works to make sure bullying is not an issue. Cherise Feltus-Wright, assistant manager of the FedEx store, said the kids are rowdy on a daily basis, but she has never seen anyone being beat up. Feltus-Wright said parking in the lot is a huge issue, because parents are coming to pick up their kids at the store’s busiest time of the day. Feltus-Wright said that while she has heard of cars being damaged, she has never seen any damage. She said she parks her car where she can see it from the store and avoids parking it in the handicap spots where the youth tend to hang out. FedEx business has been affected in the past when kids used to bang on the doors, and even though that has stopped, customers are still getting annoyed, Feltus-Wright said. “We still get business but a lot of customers aren’t happy about it and tell us, ‘Can you do something about these kids?’” she said. Avtar Khangura, of Sierra Elm One-stop Liquor, said he doesn’t have an issue with any of the middle school students, and he’s only seen one fight between girls in the past. He said the kids do not bother his customers. Capt. John Ruffcorn, of the Auburn Police Department, said officers have responded to two incidents in the parking lot involving youth on Jan. 6 and Jan. 24. Ruffcorn said in both cases the kids weren’t violent. Ruffcorn said in the first incident the kids were being loud, but not fighting, and they complied with police instruction. Ruffcorn said traffic congestion is sometimes an issue in the parking lot. “Because of the egress and ingress to the school there … sometimes the kids wander down to the end of the parking lot so it’s easier for the parents to get in there and pick them up,” Ruffcorn said. “We ask for some cooperation with school officials, with parents, as well as being over there to try to prevent traffic incidents from occurring.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com