By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter
'Kids are talking about bringing weapons to protect them - selves.' - Parent Kenneth Martinez
May 27, 2008 -- There are plenty of reasons high-school students skip class, but fear of younger kids isn't usually one of them.
Yet that's what teens at Foundations Academy in Brooklyn said is behind the school's shocking 27.7 percent attendance rate on Friday, May 16 - when 195 of 270 students failed to show up.
Students said they've been living in fear for weeks after battles with middle-schoolers who share their Bedford-Stuyvesant building began spilling onto the streets and getting out of control.
"I'm concerned about my safety because they were threatening people with guns," said Christine Squires, a 17-year-old 11th-grader.
Her classmates described being jumped by hoards of friends and relatives of the younger kids both before and after school. Some claim they were threatened with knives or guns.
Parents of the teens - who assumed their days of taking their kids to and from school were long gone - said they've found themselves chaperoning their children because of the violence.
"Kids are talking about bringing weapons to protect themselves," said Kenneth Martinez, who kept his 11th-grade daughter out of school twice in the past 10 days - and who now accompanies her daily to the Tompkins Avenue school.
"I can't leave worrying that, God forbid, something's gonna happen to my child," he said.
Both Gary Beidleman, principal of Foundations Academy, and Kourtney Cole, principal of the Urban Environment middle school, declined to comment.
But parents credit Beidleman for doing his best to keep the kids safe - including procuring a yellow bus to take the high-schoolers to the nearest subway station after school.
Teens said the trouble started weeks ago, when seven Foundations Academy students were selling cupcakes for an AIDS walk in a lunchroom filled with Urban Environment students.
They said the younger kids began shouting anti-gay slurs, hurling food and, ultimately, throwing fists.
In the weeks that followed, friends and relatives of the middle-school kids were apparently recruited on the premise that the smaller, younger kids needed protection - even though several parents at Urban Environment acknowledged their school had been the aggressor.
"This is an ongoing problem with the junior high school," said the mother of a sixth-grader there. "There's no proper supervision."
Department of Education officials did not respond to requests for comment, and cops said they had no record of incidents with guns at the schools.
But with just weeks left in the school year and Regents exams coming up, the high-school students said they don't want to be forced to miss any more days.
"All I can do is hope," said one junior.