A recent Los Angeles School District report estimated that last year 22,000 students dropped out of grades 10 through 12. Although figures for the current year are not available, officials said that the dropout rate--18% districtwide and only slightly lower in the San Fernando Valley--probably remained the same. Six Valley teen-agers who should have graduated from high school this week tell why they didn't.
I like to do things my own way. That's why I ran into problems. I didn't like to conform, and in some ways I still don't. The fun is in not conforming.
When I started high school, I had a lot of older friends. They hung out at the 7-Eleven and got stoned a lot. I started to hang around with them and started to shine on school.
I went through a rebellious time. I ditched 90 days in the 10th grade. I flunked all six classes the second semester and two the first semester.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 25, 1987 Valley Edition View Part 5 Page 23 Column 4 Zones Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
In a series of interviews with high school dropouts published June 18, photographs of Dave Dockter of Tarzana and Juan Ramirez of Los Angeles were inadvertently reversed.
The first time I ever ditched was eighth grade, but it was only twice. Ninth grade, it was, "Let's cut fifth period, but not the whole day."
But you go out and party and you can't go back if you're stoned or drunk. After a while you're so far behind, you're afraid to go to school at all.
Then I got into this accident and broke my leg. I was on a motorcycle and hit a car. I almost lost my left leg, but it was like a new beginning.
I went to school my whole junior year. I was on crutches. My mom dropped me off and picked me up, and I couldn't ditch or anything.
But I was like 70 credits behind and I was looking at an extra year to graduate.
I hung out with two different crowds. At school I went for the honors classes, and after school, I'd be with the people who drugged and partied. But I don't do drugs anymore. It screws you up.
The only way I saw that I could move on was to drop out and get the GED (General Education Development test, a diploma equivalency test) and move on to junior college. My friends are moving on. I don't want them to be in college and I'm still in high school.
I'm really intelligent--at least that's what I'm told. But school to me was just a place you had to go. You're learning the same things over and over.
English. I've been taking English since seventhgrade. I can write great, my teacher said so. Why take more English?
Geometry. I'm not going to use geometry in my lifetime. I need to know how to balance a checkbook, and that's the math I need.
People might call me a dropout, but I feel really good about it. I accept the good points and the bad points.
In all that ditching, I think I got to learn about myself in ways that kids who stay in school don't. I know more who I am and what I like to do. I don't have the identity crises that some kids do.
I live with my mom. I work at the same drugstore she does. I make deliveries and do the stocking.
I know that in this society you have to have a career. I don't want to work for $7 an hour forever.
My junior year at Burbank I was the drill team major, and the beginning of my senior year I was varsity cheerleader. I was involved in school choir and all of that. But I had problems with my parents and had to go to a foster home.
It's really hard to find foster homes for teen-age girls. This one was as close as they could find to Burbank. I was really lucky to get this place.
But the school wasn't Burbank High, and my spirit was there. Everything I had was blue and white.
I was smacked around at home. I'd go to school with dark glasses and my friends would say, "What happened?" and I'd say, "I can't talk about it."
The courts gave me a counselor. I tried to live up to what she wanted me to do, but I just couldn't. I'd been a good student--a B-minus, C-plus student--but, all of a sudden, I couldn't do it anymore. A lot of times I'd sit in class and stare and stare and they'd think I'm on drugs or something. But I wasn't.
There's a big difference in social status between Burbank and the Valley. Burbank is in the hills and there's more money. It's hard to get accepted, but here it's more that everybody likes everybody. What you have economically or socially isn't that important.
Actually, I got accepted into a pretty good group. But classes are different. I was used to being in a structured environment where you know what you're supposed to do. But, in a lot of classes at Monroe, it's too loose. There isn't much school spirit.
I got here Oct. 20. The last time I went to school was about a month ago. I feel terrible for dropping out, but there wasn't much I could do about it.
My foster mom is good. She's understanding. But I don't get along with the two other girls here. They're foster kids like me, but their backgrounds are different. They're street tough.
At first it was OK, then they found out I'd been a cheerleader and after that I was too blond and too blue-eyed and too stuck-up.
All my friends say to take the GED, but from what I understand employers look at a diploma more than a GED.