Residents who live near Glendale High School are quick to acknowledge that they have to put up with more than their share of noise and mischief from a campus where 2,000 students come and go each day.
But this year, what was once a minor nuisance has turned into a daily battle with students, residents say. As one homeowner remarked, "We're no longer going to pull the draperies and act like everything is OK."
Residents contend that, before and after school and during lunch, students have been making their lives miserable by vandalizing homes and cars, taking drugs and drinking alcohol in open view, piling trash up in front yards, creating excessive noise and fighting in the streets.
To get their point across, about 70 residents have jointly hired an attorney and signed a petition demanding that the district act.
"You've got to expect a little bit of this kind of stuff when you live near a high school, but this year it's gotten out of control," said Pamela Grissom, who organized the petition drive. "It's really getting scary around here. They just do whatever they want right in front of our homes. I've got a little baby and sometimes I'm afraid to leave the kid alone and walk to the laundry room."
School officials, meanwhile, acknowledge the residents have a legitimate gripe but say they may be overreacting. Besides, officials said, they cannot control the entire problem because many of those who cause the trouble are not from Glendale High and some of the incidents take place when school is not in session.
Nevertheless, John Heine, the residents' attorney, said that in the last year the atmosphere along Lukens Place, Barrington Way and other streets near the school has become "extremely confrontational" and that students have started retaliating when residents complain about their behavior.
Eggs and tomatoes have been thrown at houses and apartments, and the students go out of their way to provoke some of the residents, Heine said. One resident said that he got into a shoving match last week with one of the students who was "acting rowdy."
"We've got to have a new set of ground rules because this is just a time bomb for everybody involved," Heine said. "We're not fishing for a lawsuit here, but the situation has to change."
In the petition presented to the Board of Education last week, residents asked the district to appoint a school employee who would serve as a contact when problems occur. Resident Jeri Lundquist said that tenants and homeowners often "get the run-around" when they report incidents to school officials, who tell them to call the police. The police, she said, then tell residents to call the school.
The petition also requests that the officials modify the current Glendale High open-campus policy that allows students to leave school grounds during lunch with parent permission. About 1,000 students have such passes, officials said.
Heine said he will also contact city officials and ask them to put "no loitering" and anti-littering signs along the residential streets. If the problems do not stop, he said, he may file a lawsuit charging the district with negligent supervision of students.
District officials are taking the matter seriously.
Supt. Robert Sanchis personally walked the streets Friday to assess the situation and instructed administrators at Glendale High School to step up their patrol of the neighborhood and to discourage students from congregating in the residential area.
Previously, Glendale High officials would patrol the neighborhood "nearly all the time" during the lunch break, Sanchis said. But now they will walk the streets every day to try to keep students from disturbing residents.
Open Campus to Remain
He said, however, that changing to a closed-campus policy is not being considered, despite the petition.
"We will continue to monitor the situation, but at this point we feel that patrolling the area should keep things under control," Sanchis said. "We don't think that this situation is particularly unique to Glendale High. Whenever you have a high school that great numbers of students go to every day, there are going to be minor problems that residents are going to be concerned with."
Glendale police Sgt. Bob McCloud said officers will continue to pay attention to the residents' calls and answer complaints from callers who report a crime. Police occasionally arrest students in the area on such charges as carrying concealed weapons or drug possession. But police do not have the resources to regularly respond to such complaints as littering or loud noise, McCloud said.
No Specific Police Plans
He said the neighborhood is not a high-crime area and the department has no specific plans, such as appointing a task force or dramatically increasing police patrol of the area, to handle the residents' complaints.
Glendale High Principal Sam Harvey acknowledged the problem residents are having and said the school's lunchtime patrols will be "more conscientious."