Dozens of parents, some of them frantic, waited outside campus while their children were locked in classrooms for three hours and police searched them.
Plenty of finger pointing already has gone on, with some targeting their ire at police and school administrators for supposedly not being alert, and others taking aim at newcomer Bay Area residents for causing problems.
But nothing is that simple. Patterson has struggled with gang problems for years.
If anyone is to blame, it’s the students themselves who caused the melee.
A lack of parental involvement also might be a culprit. Though many of Patterson’s youth are good kids, a growing number of students are growing up without respect for authority, and the problems often start at home. Parents either are unaware of negative influences in their children’s lives or don’t care.
Given the recent escalation in violence, it’s clear that local school district Superintendent Patrick Sweeney was correct this week when he referred to the issue as a community-wide problem.
So, this question needs to be addressed: What must we, as a community, do in response?
There are no trite, easy answers. Increased law enforcement at Patterson High may help for a little while, but no one wants to create a society in which students feel like prisoners on campus because of a few bad seeds.
The end goal should not be merely to incarcerate youths but to see changed lives. At the very least, that will require a collaborative effort with parents, schools, city officials, law enforcement, service clubs and local churches.
It might seem like an insurmountable task, but Patterson has taken on immense challenges before. Take, for example, the refurbishing of Patterson Community Stadium, unveiled for the first time last week — a moment of great community pride.
Addressing the gang issue will be an even greater challenge. It will require honest dialogue, not just self-righteous talk, among community members. As scary as it might sound, it also will require outreach to local gang members.
It’s been refreshing to see some dialogue about this week’s melee already taking place on the Irrigator Web site. Perhaps that conversation can continue at Patterson Unified School District’s parents meeting at Apricot Valley Elementary School on Monday and at a special City Council meeting devoted to the topic Tuesday.
Ultimately, we all have a role to play to help resolve this community crisis.
In the words of Mother Theresa, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”