L.A. school to hold students back?

BOYLE HEIGHTS, Calif. Parents of Murchison Elementary students say they are more worried than just their students' grades.

"There is always the influence of drugs and the influence of so many other stuff," said mother Alida Pontifes.

"Fighting ... and where you from ... that's why," said another mother Iliana Martinez.

It is also why Iliana Martinez is pushing for a new program at her son's school, Murchison Elementary.

Instead of moving to a middle school for 6th grade, the students will stay as part of an experiment to see if students do better at a school they know so well.

"What is beneficial to our students? What's really going to give them the opportunity to really achieve?" said Murchison Elementary Principal Margarita Gutierrez.

Educators say it can be scary to make the transition from elementary school to middle school. The average elementary school has about 500 students, whereas the average junior high has about 2,000 to 4,000 students.

Delaying middle school is generating debate. According to a study conducted this year by United Way of Greater L.A., middle school students need special attention. The study says middle schools are better suited for that type of attention.

"This is a time when they are most at risk for joining gangs, engaging in high-risk sex behaviors and, very sadly, increased attempted suicides at this particular age," said Sandra Sealy, United Way of Greater L.A.

According to the United Way study, 48 percent of 7th-graders have been bullied at least once in the last year. In addition, six percent of 7th-graders carried a gun to school at least once. The study says 13 percent of students brought another weapon to school.

Murchison's principal says she will survey parents and students at the end of the year. Some students, she says, were disappointed that they weren't able to go to El Sereno Middle School.

However, concerned mothers are pushing for even more time. Some say they would like to see Kindergarten through 8th grade in the same school.


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