LONG BEACH — The city school district has forbidden the star quarterback of the Wilson High School football team, who was arrested but not charged with a drug offense in May, from returning to classes though he will be allowed to take part in graduation ceremonies.
Trustees cited violations of the California Education Code concerning the theft of "private property" as the basis for its decision Monday not to allow Bobby San Jose to return to Wilson.
They agreed to let him graduate later this month if he completes required course work, and San Jose chose to finish his studies at home. The board's decision came a month after an undercover police officer accused San Jose of offering to provide her with cocaine. The ruling will enable San Jose to accept a full athletic scholarship at UCLA. That scholarship hinged on his receiving his high school diploma.
San Jose said the school board was "trying to save face" but indicated he would continue to use his former teachers as tutors and complete his studies at his East Side home before participating in graduation ceremonies June 18. He declined a transfer to another of the district's five high schools, an alternative offered by the trustees.
Out of School Since May 1
San Jose has been out of school since his arrest May 1 on suspicion of offering to sell cocaine after Long Beach Police Department undercover Officer Lisa Lopez said San Jose agreed to provide cocaine in exchange for $50. He was also held on suspicion of petty theft in connection with the money which Lopez said she gave to him during an earth science class.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office, however, did not file charges against San Jose. Deputy Dist. Atty. Carmen Rugnetta said it could not be shown that San Jose intended to deliver drugs to Lopez after she gave him the money, nor could it be proven in court that he intended to steal the money.
San Jose, described as a "B-minus" student by his family, was the school's star quarterback and also a starting guard on the basketball team. He denied ever intending to obtain cocaine for Lopez.
Board members met privately with San Jose and his family for almost an hour Monday before their regularly scheduled meeting and then held a second closed-door session later that evening to further review the case. San Jose learned of the board's decision Tuesday morning.
In accepting the recommendation of a school board expulsion panel, the board said it had considered "the best interests of the high school and the student."
Board members referred all questions about the case to board President Dr. John E. Kashiwabara, who issued a statement that read: "The Board of Education has given careful consideration to the best interests of both Wilson High School and the student. The board concurred with the recommendation of the guidance and review committee and decided that he should have the following options: 1) to complete his education and final examinations under an independent study program, or 2) to transfer to another high school and complete his education there. In either case he should be able to earn his diploma from Wilson High School on schedule. This decision is effective immediately."
According to his mother, Jeanie San Jose, Bobby San Jose admitted accepting the money, but denied he intended to provide drugs. She said her son had complained earlier to a younger brother that a student in his fourth-period class wanted him to get drugs for her and that he didn't want to go to that class and see her. Jeanie San Jose also said her son intended to return the money that same day, but was unable to find Lopez.
When he couldn't find Lopez, Jeanie San Jose said, he used some of the money to buy a pizza with his girlfriend and later purchased dinner at a fast food restaurant with several friends.
When arrested, San Jose had just $1 in his pocket. He since has repaid the $50 to the Long Beach Police Department.
School district spokesman Dick Van Der Laan said that, "based on all the facts that were presented, the school board decided a theft, not a drug sale, had taken place. . . . The return of the money did not take place until (long) after the arrest."
San Jose's family and his attorneys argued that the school's former student body vice president should be returned to the school and allowed to graduate with his friends.
One of San Jose's attorneys, Albert Ramsey, said the entire review process was "a sad thing" because his client had done "nothing illegally."
"All Bobby wants to do is put on that cap and gown, get in line and do his thing," Ramsey said.
The student athlete called the events of the past month "a nightmare."
"I want to get on with it," he said. "I don't want this to hinder me. My friends know who I am. I know who I am."
James Zarifes, the only board member who would comment on the case, characterized San Jose as "a fine young man. Whatever he does he will have a fine career. He comes from a fine family."
San Jose, 18, was arrested at Wilson along with six other students as part of a Long Beach Police Department undercover operation at two city high schools. As the only adult student booked at Wilson, he has been the only one named. The six juveniles have been expelled by the district, said Van Der Laan, who noted that their penalty was more serious because the six allegedly provided drugs to the undercover officer, while San Jose did not. It is not known what their legal status is, since most court records on juveniles are sealed.
San Jose has been tutored by his teachers at Wilson since he was suspended by the school after his arrest. He indicated that he was confident he would obtain his diploma by taking his final exams at home.