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Community News: Mid-City

PICO-UNION : Pupils Put Drug Dealers on Notice

August 29, 1993|JAKE DOHERTY

Students at Leo Politi Elementary School have a lesson for anyone who wants to sell drugs on the street outside their school: Don't even think about it.

To make their point, the first- and third-grade classes of teachers Sonia Torres and Greg Hernandez have been leading anti-drug marches in front of the school since last year.

"No More Drugs! Education, Not Drugs!" chant the students as they walk along the 2400 block of 11th Street under the watchful eyes of teachers, parents and a police officer.

"This is the right thing to do because there are too much drugs," said Luis Gonzales, 8, a third-grader. "I wouldn't do drugs for anything. They should take (the dealers) to jail."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 5, 1993 Home Edition City Times Page 9 No Desk 1 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
The name of the principal of Leo Politi Elementary School in Pico-Union was misspelled in an Aug. 29 article. The correct spelling is Richard Alonzo.

With children forced to confront drug dealers in their own neighborhoods at an early age, it is not too soon to start talking to them about drugs in elementary school, Torres said.

"At this age, they are still too young to be lured by the glamour or the money" of the illegal drug trade, Torres said. "They can still be persuaded that it's wrong. This is a good age to start."

The decision to stage the 15-minute marches in the morning or afternoon--whenever a police officer is available--grew out of discussions between Principal Richard Alzono, members of the Pico-Union Improvement Assn., the police and parents of the school's students.

"We had drug dealers directly across the street," Alzono said. "We didn't want to be too confrontational or to put the kids in any danger, but we wanted to do something."

Since the students started marching, Alzono said, drug activity in front of the school has diminished. Officer Webster Wong agreed.

"I think drug dealers look at the kids and say, 'Maybe I shouldn't be on this corner'," Wong said as he escorted a recent march.

At first, parents were reluctant to support the marches because they feared retaliation by dealers, Hernandez said.

"At our first meeting, we had one parent," he said. "But at our last meeting, we had about 100 parents and neighbors."

Elva Garcia, whose son Daniel attends first grade at the school, said many of the parents just decided it was time to clean up the neighborhood.

"This neighborhood is very dangerous," she said. "Three weeks ago we saw four guys trying to sell stuff to someone in a car. Then all of a sudden, 'Ba-ba-ba-ba,' they started shooting. If the kids see this every day, they just think it's normal."

The students look forward to the days they get to march, the teachers said.

"They love carrying the signs and yelling," Torres said.

Asked what the marching is all about, first-grader Enrique Figueroa, 6, said: "So they won't sell any drugs. That would make me feel happy."

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