Jul 29, 2014
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Students, Parents, Teachers Sound Off on High School Guns

More than 150 turn out Monday night, as teachers call for discipline, parents pledge to help and students tell of being intimidated for reporting wrongdoing.

Students, Parents, Teachers Sound Off on High School Guns

A forum called in response to the recent discovery of three guns around San Leandro High turned into a broader discussion of school culture as 150 students, parents and teachers talked about everyday acts of intimidation and called for more discipline.

San Leandro school district officials had called the Monday night meeting at the high school's Arts Education Center to see how the public felt about the gun that was Sept. 9, and the that occurred last week.

Although there was plenty of talk about guns, several students and parents told of intimidation, often having to do with pot smoking, while teachers said a general lack of discipline was undermining education for the majority of kids who observed the rules.

But when it came to specifics, there was no concensus on proposals like the use of drug-sniffing dogs to deter marijuana use or metal detectors to catch guns.

Many students also bemoaned the fact that the publicity over the guns was painting San Leandro High as a "ghetto school."

One San Leandro High senior put the gun issue into perspective when she told school board, school district and police officials who gathered on stage about a Facebook message a friend had sent out on the day of the first incident.

"This was not the first gun at San Leandro High," the message went, "it won't be the last one and it wasn't the only one at school that day."

Senior Eric Hidalgo said students know there are guns around and deal with it. "I don't feel unsafe but I don't feel safe either," he said.

Stories of intimidation surfaced.

One mother talked about her daughter, who has an allergy to smoke that makes her break out in hives. Her daughter once reported a classmate for having the strong odor of marijuana and the offending student was removed from class. After that, the mother said, someone came up behind her daughter and said that if she pointed out another kid she would be dead.

Another student rose and said he had reported some kids for giving away drugs and had been pushed down the stairs for his troubles, while little was done about the offenders.

A 10th grader said everyone on campus knows where the dead spots are in the camera network, creating places to get mugged. "We knew they had guns," the young woman said. "You guys are just finding that out. We are intimidated into not saying anything."

Dan Dillman, owner of the Bal Theater and father of two San Leandro High students, suggested that authorities create a texting hotline that students could use to report incidents.

"I want to commend the young people who have stood up to report these things," he said. "The hope is that if you all stand up they will sit down."

Dave D'Antonio, a teacher at Bancroft Middle School, drew applause by suggesting that a general tightening of discipline in the little things would improve the overall climate of the school.

"The district needs to set a standard that students can rise up to, not a bar they can just step over," he said.

The overall mood of the meeting was in no way angry. To the contrary, many speakers expressed understanding that the troublemakers are few in number and even they have troubles of their own.

"Let's use the crisis to come together," said San Leandro High multimedia teacher Tony Farley. "I've heard talk about dogs and metal detectors and badges. I don't think any of that brings us together in any way."

But divisions run deep over how to deal with the school's discipline issues. Jaimie Turrentine, vice president of the San Leandro High Associated Student Body, said why not consider drug-sniffing dogs? The students with nothing to hide wouldn't mind and it might deter the other, she said.

(More notes from the meeting are posted at www.facebook.com/sanleandropatch)

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