Special Report: School Sex Dens - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Special Report: School Sex Dens

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MEMPHIS, TN -

By Joe Birch - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - No matter the result of the Memphis City Schools charter surrender referendum on March 8, it appears certain that dozens of under-utilized schools in the city's system will close.

The closures were already under discussion before talk of the charter surrender ever began, with Superintendent Kriner Cash putting the number of schools that could close at 50.

While school leaders decide what to do with the students at those schools, what will happen to the buildings?  Some neighbors say currently abandoned schools have turned into sex dens.

While the new Manassas High School stands as a shining beacon in North Memphis, the old school sits empty, ugly and easy to enter - once you get through a fence.

"With it being abandoned the way it is, it just don't look right in the neighborhood over here," sad Tracy Freeman, a concerned neighbor, who would like to see the building torn down.

The Memphis Housing Authority took responsibility for old Manassas after it swapped land with Memphis City Schools for the new Manassas High.  A police precinct is slated for the old Manassas site, but that's still years away.  

Over at the old Melrose High School, neighbors like Robert Hawkins say the crumbling structure should be renovated or demolished.

"Time after time after time, people are sleeping in that building," Hawkins said. "You got a playground right here in the back. You got kids coming through there all the time."

Demarcus Dockins often visits a playground behind old Melrose with his three-year-old cousin. Dockins suspects drug activity and prostitution are taking place inside the old school.

"Little kids come up here to play all the time, and they shouldn't be exposed to this," he said. "It's not good."

The Action News 5 investigators captured images of an open entrance to old Melrose, where anyone could walk in despite the no trespassing signs. The entrance has since been resealed, after reports of hookers turning tricks in the old school house and crackheads smoking dope inside.

It's a never ending fight for people who live on Dallas street in the school's shadow.

"Young adults, I guess, do the young adults thing," Hawkins said. "You know, I don't have to name, go into detail and get explicit about it."

According to Hawkins, since the old Melrose has been sealed off, the inappropriate activity has moved next door to a fenced area that once concealed a dumpster.  Hawkins believes there could be drug activity in the area, and wants the city to do something about it.

But school down-sizing does not always result in eyesores, blight and juvenile delinquency.  For example, Kipp Diamond Academy, a charter school, took over Caldwell Elementary when it closed.

MCS Superintendent Kriner Cash has pledged to find a use for each school that is closed.

The Memphis School Board had planned to hold public hearings in January, and hold a vote this week on school down-sizing, but all of that has been delayed by the charter referendum.

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