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San Diego school board declines to overturn 'twerking' suspensions

May 15, 2013|By Tony Perry

The San Diego school board has declined to overturn the two-day suspensions meted out to 31 high-school students for being part of a "twerking video" shot on campus.

After hearing complaints from parents that the suspensions were too harsh and could hurt their children's chances of being admitted to college, the San Diego Unified School District governing board met in closed session Tuesday night.

Board members emerged to announce that the state Education Code bars them from overturning the suspensions given out by administrators to students at Scripps Ranch High School. Only the administrators can overturn their decisions, the board said.

But one board member broke ranks Wednesday by issuing a memo to reporters saying that both the students and the Scripps Ranch administrators "showed poor judgment."

Board member Scott Barnett called on the students to apologize and the school principal to expunge the suspensions from their records. He agreed with parents who said that a suspension for alleged sexual harassment could be damaging to students' college admission hopes.

Barnett said that parts of the video "were offensive and inappropriate" and the video should not have been shot on campus.

"I, on occasion hear language and music and see behavior by teenagers that I find very offensive and even shocking," Barnett said. "I do not like it but it's a reflection of our times."

In the video, the students are shown twisting and thrusting their hips and buttocks, with rap music playing in the background. The term "twerking" is said to be a mix of the words twist and jerk.

"It is my personal opinion that the video is a deeply offensive production with implications for lewd conduct, sexual harassment and gender victimization," Supt. Bill Kowba wrote in a memo to board members before Tuesday's meeting. "It is especially insulting to [Scripps Ranch High], having been filmed on district property without district/school authorization."

The suspensions were given to "28 white females and 3 male students of color," Kowba wrote. He described their actions as "gyrating against a wall while standing on their hands." The music, he wrote, was "salacious."

The school's principal, Anne Menna, said that all of the parents were contacted and that "in all but a couple of instances, the parents were disappointed and embarrassed," according to Kowba's memo.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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