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A Skateboarder With a Cause

Boy Is Lobbying Principal for Permission to Store His Wheels on Campus

October 13, 2000|SHARON NAGY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Seventh-grader Andrew Gazdecki isn't looking to use his skateboard to grind sidewalks. The 12-year-old wants it for transportation. To school.

Andrew will wear a helmet. He promises to lock the board up at the bike racks, not jumping on it until the last bell rings.

However, officials of Shorecliffs Middle School in San Clemente have told the boy no. Skateboards are not allowed on campus--even if they're just carried.

Andrew began gathering signatures earlier this month from people throughout the community. He plans to deliver the 148 names to Principal Donald Mahoney today with a speech on self-sufficient transportation.

"All I'm asking is to be riding it to the bike racks," Andrew said. "I think it would be a fun thing to do instead of just sitting in the car."

Right now, Andrew's mother, Cheryl Gazdecki, drives him the mile and a half to and from school. But he wants to do his own commuting.

His mother supports him--but she's not getting involved in his campaign.

"I think it's good for kids to have their independence," Cheryl Gazdecki said. "He's a huge skateboarder. But I'm his mom, and I want it to be his issue, not mine."

Under San Clemente laws, Andrew could bring his board to campus as long as he wasn't riding it. But Capistrano Unified School District has its own policy barring skateboards on campus. Shorecliffs, along with the 44 other schools in the district, is posted with no-skateboarding signs.

"It's primarily a safety issue," 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."

Attending Palisades Elementary School as a young child, Andrew rode his skateboard daily ritual, he said. He stored his board outside the classroom.

District officials are at a loss to explain how Andrew might have been allowed to bring his skateboard onto his elementary school campus.

Andrew says he's come up with solutions to concerns about his carrying the board from class to class. He found a skateboard lock company on the Internet. After briefing representatives about his saga, they offered to "sponsor" the boy with a free lock, T-shirts and hat.

"I think the [no skateboarding] rule is ridiculous," said Ross Fontes, owner of Newport Beach-based Spoonfish, the lock maker. "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, even if they're left in backpacks all day. Garden Grove Unified leaves the decision 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, part of the Anaheim Union district, wanted to accommodate riders who were stuffing their boards in lockers, Principal Norman Fried said.

"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," Fried said.

An average of 15 to 20 students use the racks daily, Fried said. It cost about $1,000.

And while Mahoney lauded Andrew for initiating the petition drive, he said that 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 if he isn't successful at Shorecliffs, he'll take the issue to the district.

"The principal isn't in charge of everything," Andrew said. "If the district agrees with me, than I will be in luck."

That also might prove a hard sell.

"The rules have been around for as long as anyone can remember," said Julie Jennings, Capistrano Unified School District public information officer. "If they bring the skateboards into the classrooms they become a safety hazard and we can be held liable. Skateboards are not allowed on campus."

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