LAWNDALE — A group of parents and teachers, citing what were termed daily incidents of assault and intimidation at Leuzinger High School, has called on school officials to enforce stricter discipline on the 2,600-student campus and expel or transfer youths who are "constantly truant or disruptive . . . and do not respond to authority."
Ann Periconi, president of the Leuzinger Parent Teacher Student Assn., charged that problems with misbehaving students have been aggravated recently by a change in board policy which allows the youths to remain on the Leuzinger campus instead of being transferred to the Centinela Valley district's continuation high school. She also criticized security services provided by a private firm and urged the district to set up its own force.
"We as parents want the best for all the students," she said. "But we do not believe we need to sacrifice quality of education and the excitement of our children's high school years because of the behavior of a few."
In recent months, a number of parents and teachers have complained privately of poor discipline and violence at Leuzinger, but school and law enforcement officials generally have downplayed the reports, saying that the situation at Leuzinger is no worse than at other urban campuses and that measures are being taken to deal with specific problems.
Not Out of Hand
After Periconi aired the parents' grievances at a school board meeting Monday night, officials acknowledged a number of recent incidents at Leuzinger but denied that disciplinary problems had gotten out of hand there.
Principal Ron Tyler said specific problems on the campus "are being dealt with as they arise, but it is just not true that we are having daily incidents of violence and intimidation. If teachers are being intimidated, they should tell me about it, and they haven't done that yet."
Supt. McKinley Nash praised the parents for "going public" with their concerns and detailed a number of measures taken by the administration, including expulsion of misbehaving students, closer cooperation with law enforcement agencies and the establishment of parent groups to advise him on long-range planning for better security at the Leuzinger campus.
He also praised a group of students who presented him a petition calling for stricter campus discipline and improved school security.
Incidents reported this month include a campus fracas involving 15 youths and a shooting near the school in which an estimated 15 shots were fired, wounding a 15-year-old Gardena youth and striking two homes and a car. Lennox sheriff's deputies said the shooting involved Korean youths, none of whom attended Leuzinger.
In a letter last month, Edel Alonso, president of the Centinela Valley Secondary Teachers Assn., recalled "numerous attempts" by teachers to persuade school officials to deal with "unsafe and unhealthy" conditions on the district's campuses in Lawndale and Hawthorne, where enrollment swelled last fall after the closure of Lennox High School.
"Students have been discovered on school grounds with guns," Alonso wrote district officials. "Students have been attacked on school grounds and robbed. Teachers have been threatened by students."
Periconi, the PTA president, disputed administration claims that it is enforcing a policy of transferring misbehaving students to Lloyde Continuation High School in Lawndale. She said "permissive" guidelines still permit "disruptive" youths to "jeopardize the safety of youths who want to learn" and called on the trustees to "return to a no-nonsense policy of discipline."
Incidents of students being threatened and robbed of their lunch money are "common occurrences" on the campus, Periconi said. "The strong prey on the weak."
She said the parents were not proposing that Lloyde be used as a "dumping ground, but rather as a haven for confused or anti-social youths who need professional help to turn their lives around and make them socially productive, instead of self-destructive."
Under a policy in force last year, students with a record of poor attendance and behavior problems were automatically transferred to Lloyde. However, the board later eased the rules to allow freshmen another chance to work out their problems through special programs at Leuzinger.