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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.

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)

Thomas Clarke September 21, 2011 at 04:12 AM
It is not surprising that not one student, including me, has chosen to comment. Not one adult, me included, has a clue as to why guns are carried in to schools by students. The truth, IMHO, is the same as it was when I was in high school in the late Sixties: Adults are a waste of time. They do not understand. They do not care. They are the problem. We the students and soon to be workers need to seize the power and toss those guys out. They are probably right. Look what we have brought kids.
Marga Lacabe September 21, 2011 at 06:49 AM
Thomas, maybe you should run for student body president.
David September 21, 2011 at 01:05 PM
A perfect crystallization of the prevailing "liberal" attitude in the Bay Area. Unchanged for 50 years. "Progressive"? hah.
VMM September 21, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Difficult as it may be, it is the right step to air these discussion in public and provide parents, communities, students, etc. the opportunity to vent and share. Only through this process, tedious as it may seem, will issues be addressed in the community.
Leah Hall September 21, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Cool! I'll be Cher, who will be Sonny? -- The beat goes on, the beat goes on Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain La de da de de, la de da de da -- Charleston was once the rage, uh huh History has turned the page, uh huh The mini skirts the current thing, uh huh Teenybopper is our newborn king, uh huh -- And the beat goes on.... -- The grocery store's the super mart, uh huh Little girls still break their hearts, uh huh And men still keep on marching off to war Electrically they keep a baseball score -- And the beat goes on.... -- Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce Boys keep chasing girls to get a kiss The cars keep going faster all the time Bums still cry "hey buddy, have you got a dime"

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