Louanne has misgivings about the job, and scant details about her predecessor. As Louanne starts to connect with the kids, three draw special attention: one tough who misses school to help his family financially; an aggressive lad interested in trains; and a girl who's raising her own child. Soon, Louanne finds that she, too, may need help-when she faces the girl's abusive boyfriend.
Due to financial cutbacks, Louanne accepts a student's suggestion to hold a fund-raiser; Gusmaro becomes increasingly disturbed about belonging to a street gang.
Louanne arranges for Cornelius to return to school, an action which angers Bartkus; Gusmaro is reluctant to list his date of birth and Social Security number on a form; and the students prepare for a practice job interview.
Louanne tries to reach a new student, ""a hyperactive underachieve"", and she makes a first visit to Mickey's Tavern, the faculty's weekly hangout. Meanwhile, James is inspired by Mr. Griffin to plant an apricot tree in the schoolyard.
When an unpopular student is slain, it turns out there's no one to bury him; the father of Callie's daughter returns, which delights the little girl, but not Callie; James and Gusmaro try to turn a goose into a pet.
Louanne tries to understand ""the code"" to which her students adhere when two students swear that they won't continue a fight, and after Gusmaro is arrested for stealing a CD that someone else placed in his backpack. The class visits Alcatraz.
When Blanca contemplates having a baby with her boyfriend so he can leave his gang, Louanne presses her to reconsider; James thinks his community service will be a piece of cake until he's ordered to serve as companion to a severely disabled boy; and Callie worries about her daughter's safety when Callie's mother's boyfriend becomes abusive.
After James is viciously beaten in the locker room, Louanne places herself in jeopardy by trying to find the attackers. Meanwhile, Gusmaro, also attempting to help, considers joining a new gang; and Cornelius seeks a videotape that depicts the assault.
After Callie shows compassion for a convicted child molester who's being beaten by protestors, her reaction is questioned by others. Meanwhile, Chaka and James try to photograph a ghost; and Blanca is hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer.
When the students suspect a newcomer of being a narc, Louanne tries to prove them wrong. Meanwhile, Callie is worried about possible repercussions for having informed on a drug dealer; and Hal asks Louanne out to dinner.
Cornelius is attracted to Callie and encourages by Mr. Griffin to ask her out. Meanwhile, James, who wants to have his grades raised in order to try out for basketball, strikes a deal with Louanne.
The news that her ex-husband is remarrying affects Louanne; a teacher's death causes Barkus to change his approach to students; and Cornelius is reluctant to take his graffiti talents to a higher level.
Louanne arranges for a house to be built by volunteer labor for Blanca and her family, whose home was destroyed by fire. But when she asks the students for their help, she learns that the construction site is disputed territory between two rival gangs.
The students ask (and some fail to ask) each other to a school Valentine's dance; Louanne takes a job as a waitress; Gusmaro works delivering liquor; and a new student joins the academy program.
Gusmaro is with Louanne when preteens steal her car, and his self-confidence is shaken as a result. Meanwhile, Mr. Griffin brings Tibetan monks to school to talk about nonviolence; and James takes driving lessons from Mr. Bartkus.
As the school's 50th anniversary approaches, Gusmaro discovers that the man for whom it's named was a racist. Meanwhile, Blanca learns a secret about Garrity and spreads it; and Alvina rebels against the cafeteria's food.
After Louanne hugs a distressed student, the lad accuses her of molesting him. While her class and the faculty support her, opposition comes from the boy's father, who is president of the school board.