A photo of a teen-ager in handcuffs flashed on the screen.
"He doesn't look like he's having much fun, does he?" asked Huntington Beach High School Principal Jim Staunton, speaking to students as an array of newspaper clippings and photos was displayed to illustrate a disturbing trend in Orange County: teen-age violence.
"On one spur-of-the-moment decision, on a dark night," Staunton said, "this young man let his future be completely changed." The scene Tuesday was the auditorium of Huntington Beach High School. The audience, which changed each hour, was every English class in the school. Instead of an English session, students attended the forum on violence.
Staunton said the sessions--attended by virtually every student--were to inform and invite dialogue, not to lecture or scare. Huntington Beach High itself has escaped serious problems, Staunton told the students.
"You may therefore wonder why we're here today," Staunton added. "It's because this problem (of youth violence in Orange County) is increasing, and one way to deal with it is to bring it to a level of awareness--to bring it to your attention and ask that all of us work together to see that youth violence does not touch any of us."
The principal acknowledged that in some dangerous situations, students are afraid to come forward to school officials to tell about weapons they have seen or threats they have suffered. For that reason the high school has established a telephone number that students can call anonymously.
Huntington Beach Police Officer Randy Payne told the students that reporting weapons on campus may save lives. "If someone has a gun or a knife at your school, it's jeopardizing your safety," he said. "The bottom line is that you don't have to tolerate this."
Payne noted that in Fairfax High School in Los Angeles recently, a student's hidden gun discharged and killed another student. Payne said that many students had long known about the concealed gun but had told no one.
Officer Jerry Webb said: "You can make a difference. You should be angry or upset if one of your classmates is intimidated. You need to share this type of information. Unless your administrators and we police are informed of the problems, we can't solve them."
Detective Mike Mello told the students that they "can change things . . . each of you here is a teacher, and you can learn from each other."
After the police talked, a slim, short woman went to the microphone to give her brief speech.
"I'm Lorna Hawkins, and my two sons were killed by violence in Los Angeles," she said. "I founded a group called Drive-By Agony to help stop this violence and killing. . . . It seems love, respect and caring are missing today. People must come together and care about each other."
Students gave Hawkins thunderous applause. Some students also came to the microphone to give their views on youth violence. One student said the glorification of gangs, shootings and beatings in motion pictures and television has contributed to youthful acceptance of violence. Another said many disputes were the result of intolerance.
After the formal talks, some students stayed to talk to police. Two black students told one officer they believe that police frequently stop black teens for questioning simply because of race.
Principal Staunton said the sessions had opened up a healthy discussion of violence. He told the students at the conclusion of each assembly that knowledge is power.