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Joe Clark, Tough Principal at New Jersey High School, Dies at 82

Joe Clark, Tough Principal at New Jersey High School, Dies at 82
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Joe Clark, Tough Principal at New Jersey High School, Dies at 82

Joe Clark, Powerful Principal at New Jersey Excessive Faculty, Dies at 82

Joe Clark, the imperious disciplinarian principal of a troubled New Jersey highschool within the Nineteen Eighties who gained fame for restoring order as he roamed its hallways with a bullhorn and typically a baseball bat, died on Tuesday at his dwelling in Gainesville, Fla. He was 82.

His household introduced his demise however didn’t specify a trigger.

When Mr. Clark, a former Military drill sergeant, arrived at Eastside Excessive Faculty in Paterson in 1982, he declared it a “caldron of violence.” He expelled 300 college students for disciplinary issues in his first week.

When he tossed out — “expurgated,” as he put it — about 60 extra college students 5 years later, he referred to as them “leeches, miscreants and hoodlums.” (That second spherical of suspensions led the Paterson faculty board to attract up insubordination prices, which had been later dropped.)

Mr. Clark succeeded in restoring order, instilling satisfaction in lots of college students and bettering some check scores. He gained reward from President Ronald Reagan and Reagan’s schooling secretary, William J. Bennett. With Morgan Freeman portraying him, he was immortalized within the 1989 movie “Lean on Me.” And his tough-love insurance policies put him on the duvet of Time journal in 1988, holding his bat. “Is getting robust the reply?” the headline learn. “Faculty principal Joe Clark says sure — and critics are up in arms.”

Mr. Clark, who oversaw a poor, largely Black and Hispanic scholar physique, denounced affirmative motion and welfare insurance policies and “hocus-pocus liberals.” When “60 Minutes” profiled him in 1988, he informed the correspondent Harry Reasoner: “As a result of we had been slaves doesn’t imply that you just’ve acquired to be hoodlums and thugs and knock individuals within the head and rob individuals and rape individuals. No, I can not settle for that. And I make no extra alibis for Blacks. I merely say work arduous for what you need.”

To get management of a crime-ridden faculty, Mr. Clark instituted automated suspensions for assault, drug possession, combating, vandalism and utilizing profanity towards lecturers. He assigned college students to carry out faculty chores for lesser offenses like tardiness and disrupting courses. The names of offenders had been introduced over the general public handle system.

And, in 1986, to maintain thugs from coming into the varsity, he ordered the doorway doorways padlocked throughout faculty hours. Hearth officers responded by having the locks eliminated, citing the security of scholars and lecturers. A yr later, town cited him for contempt for persevering with to chain the doorways.

“As a substitute of receiving applause and purple hearts for the resurgence of a faculty,” Mr. Clark stated after a court docket listening to, “you end up maligned by just a few feebleminded creeps.”

Although the padlocking episode put him in battle with the Paterson faculty board, his no-nonsense model led to an interview for a White Home job in early 1988. Earlier than turning it down, he insisted that if he took the job it could not be due to any stress from the board.

“I refuse to let a bunch of stubborn, rebellious board members run me out of this city that I’ve labored in so assiduously for 27 years,” he informed The Washington Submit in 1988. A Submit headline referred to as him “The Wyatt Earp of Eastside Excessive.”

Joe Louis Clark was born on Could 8, 1938, in Rochelle, Ga., and moved together with his household to Newark when he was 6. He earned a bachelor’s diploma from what’s now William Paterson College, in Wayne, N.J., and earned his grasp’s at Seton Corridor.

After serving as a drill teacher within the Military Reserve, he began his schooling profession as an elementary-school trainer and principal in New Jersey after which as director of camps and playgrounds for Essex County, N.J. Then he was appointed to show Eastside Excessive round.

“A college’s going the place the principal goes,” William Pascrell, the Paterson faculty board president, informed the North Jersey newspaper The Document. “Eastside is a faculty able to take off. Joe Clark is the man who can do it.”

In 1989, his closing yr at Eastside, Mr. Clark frolicked away from the varsity selling “Lean on Me” and was on the street when a bunch of younger males stripped all the way down to their G-strings throughout a faculty meeting. Mr. Clark was suspended for every week for failing to oversee the gathering.

He resigned from Eastside in July 1989 two months after coronary heart surgical procedure.

After six years on the lecture circuit, typically calling for rigorous educational requirements, Mr. Clark resurfaced because the director of the Essex County Youth Detention Middle in Newark. Once more his ways drew fireplace. Each the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Fee and the state’s Division of Youth and Household Providers criticized him at completely different instances for extreme use of bodily restraints, together with shackling and cuffing some detainees for 2 days.

Mr. Clark stepped down as director in early 2002 after the juvenile justice fee accused him of condoning placing youngsters in isolation for lengthy intervals.

His survivors embody his daughters, Joetta Clark Diggs and Hazel Clark, who had been each Olympic center distance runners; a son, J.J., the director of observe and discipline at Stanford College; and three grandchildren.

Mr. Clark’s picture acquired a dramatic reimagining within the climax of “Lean on Me.” As Mr. Clark, Mr. Freeman is shipped to jail for violating fireplace security codes, solely to steer college students rallying for his launch to disperse. (He’s launched by the mayor within the film.)

Mr. Clark by no means went to jail, and the movie’s director, John Avildsen, admitted that the scene was fictional.

“Now, if he hadn’t taken the chains off the doorways in actuality,” Mr. Avildsen informed The Occasions in 1989, talking of Mr. Clark, “and if he had gone to jail, then what occurred within the film might very effectively have occurred.”

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