Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Senior Students Skip in Plucky Protest Protest
Students ditch class after district cancels class trip to Grand Canyon
MAY 13, SAN DIEGO (AP) — With shouts of “Arizona sucks! Why punish us!?” high-school seniors all over San Diego staged a massive lunchtime rally today before walking out on their afternoon classes. The event was held in response to a San Diego Unified School board decision to forbid district-related travel in Arizona, following that state’s recent passage of a controversial law aimed at reducing the problems associated with illegal immigration. (The law requires Arizona police to detain, interrogate, and possibly deport “suspicious-looking characters of dusky complexion.”)
Following the Denver school district’s adoption of the travel ban in late April, the San Diego Board voted on May 12 to adopt a similar policy for both employees and students under its jurisdiction. Said board president Richard Barrera, “We have a responsibility to protect all children, and part of that protection means doing what we can to ensure that they grow up in a country where they don’t have to worry about coming home from school to find that their parents have been deported. Denver has set an example for educational institutions around the country, and it’s an example we are proud to follow.”
The move was considerably stronger than the board’s May 11 vote to warn students and their parents to avoid traveling in Arizona in order to avoid deportation. “The first vote felt pretty good,” said a board member who wished to remain anonymous. “Righteous, even. We figured the second would feel even better.”
The response was considerably stronger as well.
Some district janitors who had been planning to attend this year’s Institutional Janitors’ International Training Seminar (IJITS), scheduled to be held somewhere in the desert outside Sedona in early June, staged an impromptu strike of sorts. According to reports from visibly shaken school officials, they left
several key bathrooms uncleaned — and, in some cases, unflushed. A handwritten letter found stuck to the front door of Hoover High School in City Heights explained that the move was a protest against policies that valued “dirty Mexicans over hard workin [sic] American custodial professionals.” The letter had been affixed to the door by several dozen pieces of used chewing gum.
But the real outcry came from the thousands of embittered students who had been eagerly anticipating the district-wide senior field trip to the Grand Canyon at the end of the month. The trip, which took three years to organize, was described in some circles as “Burning Man for the 18-and-under set” and promised to be totally epic.
Though the school district billed the event as “an opportunity to explore one of the world’s greatest natural wonders while building community in a safe, supervised environment,” some students had other agendas. “We were all set to ditch during the group hike to the canyon floor and spend two days just camping out in the desert,” said San Diego High School’s Paul VanDerMeyer. “Joe Herschorn had scored a whole mess of [ecstasy], and I was going to sneak a bottle of my dad’s Jägermeister. Ashley Minkins said she wanted to party with us! I was finally going to score!
“Now, the Man and his bureaucratic [expletive] machine have taken a political flame-thrower to my dream and left it in ashes,” he concluded, lofting an egg in the direction of a car parked in the school’s faculty lot. “What a waste.”
Board president Barrera disagreed. “Don’t these students
get it? We’re protesting — against a grave injustice. Protesting our protest is a terrible mistake, and not in the best interests of students who hope to keep their permanent records free of troublesome insinuations.” But the threat of official action seemed to carry little weight with the students, who stood as one before what one senior called “the dictatorial whims of those who dared to speak out on our behalf without first gaining our consent.”
“No staycation without representation!” she then cried, raising her fist into the air.
Toward the protest’s end, senior Sally “Supersize It” McDonald expressed relief that her geology class’s upcoming trip to Monument Valley was, as of press time, still scheduled to go ahead. “It’s cool,” she observed, “because there are all these cool rock outcroppings, and the park is, like, an Indian park. It even has this really cool [Navajo] name” — Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii — “that you could use if you were an Indian rapper. Anyway, part of the park is in Utah, so we’ll just go visit that part.” McDonald expressed concern, however, that “there are lots of Mormons in Utah, and they gave all that money to keep the gays from getting married” by donating to California’s Proposition 8. “I hope the school doesn’t decide to boycott them, too. At least, not until next year.”
More like this:
- Sweetwater board votes to cut occupational programs — April 11, 2013
- Sweetwater School District Kids Face Bus Cuts — Aug. 6, 2012
- "A Better San Diego" Forum Addresses Local Public Education — Jan. 20, 2012
- Sweetwater Union High School District Board Tactic Meets Protest — Oct. 19, 2011
- Then There Were Three — June 18, 2010