NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Carter G. Woodson Middle School is a stark, cracking, graffiti-riddled concrete structure surrounded by overgrown weeds and a 7-foot high chain-link fence with barbed wire.

The school reflects its surrounding Central City neighborhood, an area with rundown rival housing projects, neglected wooden homes and trash or broken glass strewn along some sidewalks and streets.

So when two Woodson students exchanged gunfire on the school grounds Tuesday, many here saw it as part of a trend in unceasing crime of all kinds, affecting people of all ages.

Just a day after the 13- and 15-year-old students were wounded at the school, a 35-year-old man was shot in the leg two blocks away as he drove past one of the area's low-income housing developments.

``Whether it's an issue of different turf and rivalries, there is a level of violence in certain area of the community that certainly does impact what may happen in the school,'' said psychologist Joy Osofsky, a Louisiana State University professor who spent Wednesday at the school.

Wednesday's shooting was the 16th reported this year within a few blocks of the school, although only Tuesday's shooting occurred on school grounds.

Darrell Johnson, 13, and William Pennington, 15, traded gunshots in the crowded breezeway of the school shortly before noon, police said.

Johnson shot first, then Pennington grabbed the gun and returned fire, police said. The two wounded students remained hospitalized Thursday in stable condition and were expected to make a full recovery.

The 13-year-old boy who allegedly passed the .38-caliber gun to Johnson had been expelled from the school for fighting, police said. Alfred Anderson was arrested and booked on juvenile charges of illegally carrying a weapon and being a principal to attempted first-degree murder.

Residents blame part of the violence on turf battles among young people who hail from a pair of separate but nearby housing developments. Authorities believe the shooting incidents are unrelated, but could be tied to that rivalry.

Others, including those called in to counsel teachers, parents and students during the remainder of the school week, said that all the neighborhood crimes are related in their cumulative effect.

``What's really unfortunate here is that young people are exposed to violence and have access to guns and that's the way they resolve disputes in various communities in various parts of the country,'' Osofsky said.

Police were unsure of the motive for the second shooting. They arrested Rene Shields, 18, who officers saw fleeing with a gun in his hand. Shields was booked, pending further investigation, with carrying a dangerous weapon.

New Orleans is expected to get a boost in school safety with federal grants to place more officers in schools. Mayor Marc Morial said he intended to ask for permission to use the grant money immediately to assign existing officers to schools.

``Neighborhood and school rivalries are as old as the city. What changes that is when children have access to guns,'' Morial said. ``That takes an innocent shoving match and turns it into a violent incident.''

Osofsky, though, saw a ray of hope in the high turnout for counseling.

``People don't always look at positives in terms of efforts being made and community coming together to address these problems,'' she said. ``I felt they were ready to move forward, seeing school will get more support now.''

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On the Net:

Carter G. Woodson Middle School: http://www.nops.k12.la.us/schools/middle/woodson.htm

National Association of School Resource Officers: http://www.nasro.org

Safe & Drug Free Schools Program: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/SDFS