Los Angeles Times
Saturday, June 6, 1998
High School Students Protest at City Hall Over Prop.
By PATRICK KERKSTRA, LINDSEY M. ARENT, Times
A vocal group of 250 Belmont High School students left the classroom
for a real-world experiment in political activism Friday afternoon, staging
a spirited if short-lived protest against Proposition 227 at the foot of
The students, angered by the initiative's
success at the polls and excited by the chance to ditch class, left Belmont
about noon and made their way downtown, drawing police escorts, news helicopters
and politicians along the way.
"At least they're paying attention
to us now," said Gloria Aguirre, smiling as students around her chanted
For most of the protesting students, bilingual
education was their path to learning English. When a group of 12 was asked
how many had grown up with bilingual education, all but one raised their
"This isn't fair. My mom doesn't speak
English; my little brothers won't learn it now," said Manuel Valdivia,
15, a bilingual education student.
With police forming a ring around the protesters,
10th-grader Aguirre argued that vocal public protest was the only way for
students to be heard in the debate over the controversial teaching method.
"They're non-voters, and they haven't
had their views heard. It's an emotional issue for them," said Victoria
Castro, the Los Angeles Unified School District board member who represents
"Many of these students are products
of bilingual education."
Administrators heard rumors Friday morning
that the protest was going to occur, Castro said. Students left the campus
just west of downtown after a fire alarm--the agreed-upon signal--went
The demonstration remained peaceful, but
police handcuffed and took away three girls whom they said were agitating
the crowd. The girls were not arrested.
"They will be taken to school and dealt with there by school police,"
said LAPD Sgt. Joe Sanders.
Once the girls were detained, the protest
lost some of its energy, and demonstrators began walking back to school
in police-designated groups of five.