Monday, April 03, 2006

"La Raza" In California's "Imperial" Valley

There have been a number of student walkouts here in California's "Imperial" Valley. The students pictured on the left were protesting the fact that they were suspended for a walkout earlier in the week. As is the case with many of these protests, the students were carrying the Mexican flag in the forefront and carrying signs proclaiming "Viva La Raza." (Translation: Long live "The Race." [Could you imagine white students with such a sign?])
About 80 suspended Brawley Union High students marched toward Imperial this morning on canal banks surrounding Highway 86.

For two days local students have marched in protest of a House immigration reform bill and for immigrants’ rights.

Nearly 100 Brawley High students involved in Tuesday’s march were suspended.

Brawley school resource officers and Barbara Worth administrators were posted near the twin bridges of Highway 86 south of the city at presstime.

According to a source at the scene this morning, the Barbara Worth official was trying to assess whether junior high students were involved in the march. There were none.

It appeared as though there would be no effort to stop the protest this morning.

Despite the nearly 100 suspensions for Tuesday’s walkout, Brawley High students on Tuesday warned that such disciplinary action would not deter them from future rallies.

“I’m hoping they do suspend us so we can march and protest again without getting in trouble from the school,” said 17-year-old senior Valerie Lopez, who organized the march.

After hearing news over the weekend of an immigration reform bill that could determine the future of an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States, Lopez made phone calls to friends and fellow students Monday night to form a “last-minute” protest.

Brawley Union High School District Superintendent Robert Moreno said school board policy for students leaving campus calls for a one-day suspension. The suspensions were effective today.

“They are not authorized to leave school during the school day without our permission or permission from parents,” said Moreno. “We met and reviewed disciplinary action and this called for suspensions.”

Superintendents at other schools had mixed feelings about what they would do in the event of similar walkouts at their schools.

“When a kid is absent, we assign Saturday school. The obligation is to make up the absence,” said Central Union High School Superintendent Tom Budde. “A suspension, that’s just more absences for the school.”

According to the protesting students, Imperial High School was their destination. They were to meet with more students, and from there, the plan was to march to Southwest High School in El Centro.

Imperial Unified School District Superintendent Barbara Layaye said if there were a walkout at Imperial High, punishment for students would be handled individually.

“It depends on the individual student,” said Layaye. “We consider (a walkout) a truancy, and how we would discipline a student depends on their record.”

Discipline at Imperial High ranges from detention to suspension. Layaye said she was told by Imperial High Principal Lisa Tabarez there were no signs of walkouts or protests at the school.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there was talk of more protests at Brawley High.

“There’s people still wanting to protest. Some people that were suspended were talking about meeting at Shell (service station on Highway 86 and K Street),” said Lopez.

The prompting of the initial and possible future protests revolve around pending congressional actions to deal with illegal immigrants.

“We did this because we wanted everyone to see us, so we could get support for (immigrants),” said 17-year-old Brawley High junior Steven Dominguez. “I have a friend that’s a farmworker, and this could affect him. We just want to bring attention to this.”

Tuesday’s protest began around 8:10 a.m. with students marching west on Main Street, continuing south on Highway 86 to Austin Road outside Brawley. Students were gathered near Keystone and Austin roads by school officials and reportedly were told there would be no repercussions if the students cooperated and returned to school on provided school buses.

“They told us nothing was going to happen and that we weren’t going to get in trouble,” said Valerie. “If we knew we were going to get in trouble, we just would’ve kept marching.”

Moreno said he never told students no action would be taken.

“It’s unfair, but a lot of the people knew the consequences,” said Steven.

Even the consequences might not be enough to stop future protests.

“What they’re doing is actually making people want to come out and protest,” said 16-year-old Brawley High sophomore Chris Goings. “There’s people that didn’t even know about this that wanted to be a part of this.”

Added Valerie: “What we did, walking out, I felt I made a difference. But them suspending us, that just added wood to the fire. I can say that this is not over.”
I find it interesting that the students seem to always insist on doing their protests during school hours. I imagine that there would be much less interest in marching down a hot desert highway on a Saturday morning.

Even though school officials aren't allowed to physically prevent high school students from leaving the campus, that didn't stop the state's educrats from punishing Brawley High School.
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