Parent’s comments about Housing Authority students cloud gang discussionThe front steps of Decatur High School. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Okeeba Jubalo wanted to bring attention to what he says is a gang problem at Decatur High School.
But his comments about students living at the Decatur Housing Authority have received more attention. In a review posted on City Schools of Decatur’s Facebook page, Jubalo called Decatur High students that attacked his daughter, “ghetto rats across the tracks” and called for the Decatur Housing Authority property to be bulldozed and the students there sent to other districts.
The incident involving Jubalo’s daughter occurred on the morning of Nov. 10. It was a fight involving several female students, though there’s disagreement about how many students were involved. For more details on the incident, click here.
That “ghetto rats” remark drew a response from former mayor Elizabeth Wilson, who told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Rather than attack the community, he should strengthen it.”
She wasn’t the only person to respond to Jubalo’s comments.
Emily Seats-Jordan, who lives in a DHA property, sent the following response to Decaturish.
“Me being one of those students I don’t understand how someone can talk about a place he has never stepped foot in,” she said. “Many students and I who live in the apartments don’t present ourselves as ‘ghetto hood rats.’ In fact, I have high aspirations for myself and I plan on completing those aspirations right here at Decatur High School. I am appalled at how a grown man can make such ignorant comments about children whom he has never met, but I’m not angry. I’m actually disappointed because no one should be labeled because of where they come from. I am not ashamed of where I come from and for a grown man to make remarks to make me feel down about myself is completely disrespectful to me and other students who grew up in the apartments.”
The Decatur Housing Authority also issued a response to comments Jubalo made in his CSD review and in a recent article about the issue.
“We are not in agreement with these inaccurate and inappropriate statements,” the Housing Authority said. “DHA’s resident families are composed of decent and respectable citizens of the City of Decatur. We do not condone violence or fighting, as these actions are inappropriate for any students or adults. However, these issues are being addressed by the City Schools of Decatur, the correct venue for this matter.”
The statement also includes a comment from Decatur Police Lt. Jennifer Ross that crime at DHA properties is not higher than surrounding neighborhoods.
“Also, there is no evidence of current issues with criminal gang activity, as defined by Georgia State statute 16-15-3, on Decatur Housing Authority properties,” Ross said. “In contrast, we find Decatur Housing Authority staff and residents engaged in communication and working relationships with Decatur Police Department in an effort to address issues that could lead to crime.”
When asked to respond, Jubalo said he welcomed hearing from any students and adults who are concerned about his comments.
“Do you notice how these … parties are so focused on what I wrote, but nobody is addressing the issue of having gang activity at their schools,” he said via email. “Maybe they should start at www.ybemag.com to help them understand that I OWN my media company and this will not just disappear. WE ARE GOING TO FIX THIS RIGHT NOW!”
Superintendent David Dude said he couldn’t discuss how the students involved in this incident have been disciplined, saying CSD “followed all of our standard procedures.”
“There isn’t a gang problem at Decatur High,” Dude said. “We’re always concerned when we hear concerns about allegations of bullying and whatnot, and so we talk all of those very seriously and we look into any allegations like that and we continue to do that.”
Dude said he has not directly spoken to DHA about Jubalo’s comments, but reiterated that CSD values all students.
“I find it highly offensive when somebody categorizes our students as ghetto rats or refers to our people on being on the other side of the tracks,” he said. “That’s extremely concerning to me and something we would never condone.”
Jubalo said he intends to keep pressing the issue of alleged gang activity at the high school.
“We are going to schedule a town hall meeting to address the issues of gangs, poor leadership from DHS and City of Decatur Schools,” he said via email. “We are also creating a mentorship program for the area, college tours and a number of other programs. CSD’s approach is a big issue for the safety of ALL students and teachers.”