November 27, 2010 in Nation/World

Graffiti threats hobble schools

Attendance dives in Mexican city after money demands
Olivia Torres Associated Press
 

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Authorities are beefing up security at schools in this border city after graffiti threatening attacks on students and teachers was scrawled on school grounds.

Officials have increased police patrols and are installing security cameras to prevent a repeat of last week’s spate of threats that targeted five or six primary and secondary schools, said Claudio Gonzalez Ruiz, head of public safety in Ciudad Juarez.

In the messages, extortionists threatened to harm teachers and students if school administrators, or in some cases the teachers themselves, failed to pay up.

At the Rafael Velarde Elementary School, extortionists demanded to be given the $4,000 prize of a fundraising raffle, administrators said. At other schools, messages demanded teachers fork over their Christmas bonuses.

Javier Gonzalez Mocken, who heads the city’s education department, declined to provide details about the exact nature of the threats. While some of the messages were written in graffiti on walls, others were scrawled on signs tacked up on school grounds or telephoned to officials, Gonzalez Mocken said.

Many parents picked their children up early after word of the messages spread, and some kept their kids home for days, Gonzalez Mocken said. At one school, only 25 of 600 students showed up for class the day after it was targeted last week.

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