SAN CLEMENTE — Seventh-grader Andrew Gazdecki isn't looking to use his skateboard to grind sidewalks. The 12-year-old wants to use his board to get to school, and he swears he'll wear a helmet.
Officials of Shorecliffs Middle School have told him no. The rule is, skateboards are not allowed on campus.
So Andrew began gathering signatures earlier this month in support of his request. He plans to deliver 148 names to his school principal today, along with a speech on self-sufficient transportation. "All I'm asking is to be riding it to the bike racks," the boy said.
Andrew's mother, Cheryl, drives him the mile and a half to and from school each day, but he wants to commute by himself.
His mother supports his effort, though she's not directly involved in his campaign.
"I think it's good for kids to have their independence," she said. "He's a huge skateboarder. But I'm his mom, and I want it to be his issue, not mine."
The Capistrano Unified School District has a policy barring skateboards from campus. Shorecliffs, along with the 44 other schools in the district, is festooned with no-skateboarding signs.
"It's primarily a safety issue," Shorecliffs Principal Donald Mahoney said. "We have 450 cars dropping and picking up kids every morning and afternoon. I don't want to put anyone in harm's way."
Andrew said he rode his skateboard every day to Palisades Elementary School when he was younger. He would leave his board outside the classroom. District officials could not explain how Andrew might have been allowed to bring his skateboard onto his elementary school campus.
Andrew said he has come up with some answers to district concerns. He found a skateboard lock company on the Internet, for example. After briefing representatives about his dilemma, they offered to give the boy a free lock, T-shirt and hat.
"I think the [no-skateboarding] rule is ridiculous," said Ross Fontes, owner of the Newport Beach-based Spoonfish. "They let the kids ride bikes. I don't see where the problem lies, if they promise not to ride the skateboards on campus."
Still, many Orange County school districts--including Saddleback, Santa Ana and Newport-Mesa Unified--prohibit skateboards on campus. Garden Grove Unified leaves the decision up to individual campuses, and Anaheim Union High School District has no policy.
Administrators at Cypress High School, which welcomes skateboard commuters, installed a skateboard rack on campus this year. The school belongs to the Anaheim Union district.
"If kids can bring their bikes and lock them up, and kids can bring their cars and lock them up, then I thought I should provide an area where kids can lock their skateboards," said Principal Norman Fried.
Fifteen to 20 students use the racks daily, Fried said.
Mahoney lauded Andrew for his initiative but said the no-skateboarding rule will remain.
"It's good for him to go through a process, but I don't know if he's directing his energies in the right direction," Mahoney said. "What he's doing is definitely not going to make me change any rule here."
Andrew said he'll appeal Mahoney's decision to the district.