Class at El Paso high school helps students cope with Juarez violence
Published: August 24, 2012
EL PASO, Texas (CNS) -- A retired judge and alumni of Cathedral High School in El Paso teaches a class to help students better understand and cope with the daily violence they are exposed to from nearby Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Richard Barajas returned to his alma mater after retiring as a Texas State Court of Appeals judge in 2006, and recognizing the growing trend of students directly or indirectly affected by the violence in nearby Juarez, launched a class called the "Principles of Victimology." Said Barajas: "It is truly one of a kind in our country's secondary schools." His class, which started as a theoretical exercise, rapidly took on real-life applications by giving students an opportunity to discuss what has happened to them, their families or friends in an environment that has claimed more than 10,000 lives and has left nearly as many children orphaned since 2008. Of the 35 students in Barajas' class two-thirds cross the border daily into El Paso, one of the safest cities in the U.S., from Juarez, until recently known as the "Murder Capital of the World." And some 15 percent of the 480-student body at Cathedral crosses the border each day. "Of the students in my class I would say 5 percent have been directly involved and affected by the violence," Barajas said in an interview with Catholic News Services. He was quick to point out that doesn't take into consideration the spill-over effect to classmates who hear of the harrowing or tragic events. Barajas said because of the demographics of the student body, possession of cellphones while in school is permitted. "When a student's cellphone goes off, it has a chilling effect because you don't know what happened," Barajas said. "Teachers aren't trained to understand what these students have or are experiencing."
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