At Strawberry Mansion High, There's Fear, Hope

Part 1: Diane Sawyer spent months inside one of the country's most dangerous schools.
3:00 | 12/05/13

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Transcript for At Strawberry Mansion High, There's Fear, Hope
CC1 Test message This is a special "nightline." Two years strawberry hill. Switch blades and fistfights a daily concern at strawberry mansion high school on the brink of closure with the clock ticking. As teachers and students struggle to save the school, abc news was there with extraordinary access over two school years. Tonight, thanks to our viewers, we are back with the outcome that astonished us all. Abc's diane sawyer takes you inside for ou latest edition of "hidden america." Morning begins at strawberry mansion high school with a prayer. We must see the children be in your name, amen. Amen. Security guards take their post to watch for razor blades and tin foil. Knives and back packs. Vaseline on faces used to prevent scratches in a fight. A school of 464 kids. A lot of them want to learn. A lot of them on a hair trigger. This is a dangerous school. A lot of fights for nothing. So you got to be safe. For five years running, mansion as the students call it, was considered one of the most dangerous schools in america. And our cameras were allowed inside. Linda was the fourth principal for mansion in the same number of years. Each day gets scarier. Before coming to mansion, she was an assistant superintendent in the disstrict. I could not find a principal who was suitable it handle this. So therefore, I said to myself, because I love these students dearly, I will just volunteer to be the principal. She is on a mission to turn the school around and make it safer. In the middle of a city wide budget crisis, she had just a few months to save it from being closed. She is always on edge. Especially at lunch time as the entire school is in one room. I know that if they outnumber me, I don't know if I have enough manpower to bring them down. Suddenly a fight between two girls, buzz one spit on the other the day before. Rushing in to break it up. Take a deep breath. Take a deep breath. By wait, during the may hem, one of the students steps in to protect me. We want to protect diane. Reinforcing the need for strict order. So principal wayman was doing something never done before, enforcing a dress code. And it is not about grooming, but safety. No group because groups can be used be a and no hoodies. You can't identify anyone walking through cameras. She made sure security cameras were fixtures all over the school. 94. 94 cameras here and we need more. We always have to outthink them. Because they are trying to outthink us. Principal wayman had to worry not just about the student safety but her own. A student threatened her life. To me saying I have a bullet with your name on it. In the neighborhood where 40% of the people live in poverty. Highest number of homicide, rapes and assaults in the city. These are the kids in the honor's program at mansion. For many, it is tough at home. I don'tdream. My hope is I know -- well, I see ain't nothing going to change about this school or this neighborhood. For every student who causes trouble, there are so many who just wanted to learn. Like a small quiet girl named malaysia. She was in the ninth grade. Malaysia wanted to make her dad proud. She lives around the corner from mansion and tried hard to stay on track. But it wasn't easy. One day, after school, she gets punched in the face by another girl. Busted up pretty good. Malaysia worries that even though she says she had nothing to do with it, principal wayman who has strict rules will suspend her for fighting. I don't want to get suspended. Because that will make my grade go down. Later I check in with malaysia. It is better. Just this little sore. Are you scared? Of fighting. Sometimes of coming to school. Yeah. Because I'm little. Little like rezack. How do you protect yourself AT SCHOOLs I USE MY WORDS. For exam will, if someone says, I want it fight you, I say, i don't want to get suspended. I don't try to be big. I don't try to be anything. I just try to be myself. He is also in the ninth grade. He tries to show up at school everyday. Even though he shoulders a lot of responsibility at home. I'm the only man in the home. What are your favorite subjects. Chemistry. I like learning about the atoms and periodic table. His pride, junior military uniform he carefully lays out on the chair. How tall are you? 5'9". Wow. How tall are you? 5 foot. You'll be here. You'll so be here. I hope so. Back at school, parent/teacher conference day. I'm just curious, how many parents have you had come the last two days. This is the first parent i saw so far. Really? Yeah. Out of his 70 students, malaysia's dad is the only parent who shows up. He knows she is distracted by the chaos at school. But her grades are slipping. He works in construction and just wants her to have more in life. I got to make money with my hands. Why don't you make it with your brain. You understand? And interethere were so many students in this school who simply wanted something better. Take a look at the mansion version of "glee." They had no music teacher. A student just did what he could. By the end of the school year, wayman saved the school from closure and 65 out of 92 seniors were accepted to college. Double than years past. But that wasn't enough. They couldn't afford the deposit fees to get into the school they love. Like senior christine holland who is not able to go to philadelphia university. If I had $550 to go to the philadelphia university, I would have gone. For a moment, the unbreakable principal gives in to tears. As the school year ends -- if nobody told you they loved you today, you remember I do. Principal wayman braces for another year. Fewer teachers, less money, less security. But when we come back -- I missed you. I missed you too. Two of my favorite people in the world. Possibility. Changed because of you. We wanted to come down and offer you the opportunity to study with us for the next four years. Oh, look at that, girl.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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