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Latino Students Stage Walkout, Decry Prop. 187


Protesting a range of issues from discrimination to Proposition 187, a large group of Latino students at Inglewood High School walked out of class Oct. 12.

Some students at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale tried to do the same, but campus officials stopped the protest before it began.

Proposition 187, if passed by voters in November, would bar illegal immigrants from public schools, non-emergency health care and social services.

Students said the protests were planned because their opinions on issues important to Latinos, including bilingual education and the proposition, have been largely ignored by school administrators and the local community.

School officials agreed that student opinions should be expressed, but they disagreed with the students' strategy.

"They have the right to protest and I support their right, but the way in which they protested was not the proper way to voice their dissent," said Inglewood High Principal Kenneth Crowe.

A student who was caught organizing the Inglewood walkout was suspended for a day and tried to call the protest off. But 120 to 150 students left campus and walked three blocks to the school district office, Crowe said.

Parents who followed the impromptu march disputed Crowe's estimate, saying there were hundreds of students involved.

Some neighbors called the police and complained of youths running through their yards and jumping on the hoods of cars, Crowe said.


District officials refused to meet with the students and told them to return to school. Although many returned to class, 71 students who did not were suspended and their parents notified, officials said.

At a district board meeting that night, several students told board members they are upset because the school is lacking in bilingual teachers and Latino representation in the administration.

Crowe said that the school, which is 50% Latino, is in compliance with state laws on bilingual education and that a bilingual administrator was recently hired.

The same morning, student organizers at Leuzinger also hoped to rally students to leave campus to protest Proposition 187. But campus security guards, in an attempt to avert a repeat of last month's racial brawl on campus, quickly detained about 20 organizers and sent them to the administration for discipline, officials said.

Instead of suspending the students, however, Principal Sonja Davis, Centinela Valley Union High School District Supt. Joseph M. Carrillo and a district mediation specialist met with them for an hour and a half to discuss their concerns, Davis said.

"It was a good learning experience. More importantly, those who were serious about protesting learned there are other ways to get their point across," Davis said.

Students who tried to organize the protest said they think the proposition would discriminate against Latinos. Some feared that family members and close friends would be deported.

"If my parents are illegal and they go back, I can't go to school and I can't get a diploma," said 17-year-old senior Salvador Velez.

Velez also complained that commercials and campaign literature supporting the proposition have unfairly singled out Latinos.

"TV is blowing it up, giving Mexicans a bad name. If they show one (race), they should show them all or not at all," he said.

Students also said state officials lack an understanding of the people whom the proposition will most affect, citing the correlation between the proposition's number and the California Penal Code section number for murder.

"To (politicians), 187 may just be another number, but around here, to Latinos, it means you're dead," Velez said. "What does that tell us? That we're out?"

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