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Aptos HS students march for change

Aptos HS students march for change


February 1, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ - More than 200 Aptos High School students ditched
class and blocked Freedom Boulevard on Friday morning to protest
feeling like “caged animals,” forced to eat bad cafeteria food on a
closed campus.
“There is an obesity problem in the United States, and they are doing
nothing about it,” said Reina Fleck, 15. “We have burritos, pizza, chips
and doughnuts. The healthiest thing here is a salad.”
Kaitlin Hebard, 15, said, “We feel like we are left out, and they don’t
trust us. How come the kids at Watsonville can go and get a hot dog
and come back?”
Aptos always has been a closed campus for liability reasons, relating
to the school’s isolation, administrators said.
Early in the protest, students ran in front of traffic and walked on to
the Freedom Boulevard overpass above Highway 1. Hours later, a few
holdouts retreated back to school, yelling and laughing, herded by a
battalion of sheriff’s deputies walking in formation.
Although a few deputies and a school security guard described the
protest as self indulgent, some students said they were dead
No one was hurt; two students were arrested, cited and released for
“crossing the line” with deputies.
A teacher at the scene said the detained students had refused to
stop “trying to run in front of cars.” Students said the arrested people
were the leaders.
Apparently the organizers included seniors in a class taught by
veteran Aptos teacher Bob Rosengard. Rosengard said Friday
afternoon that he had nothing to do with the protest, but had talked
to students Monday “about civil disobedience, Gandhi and Henry David
Thoreau. Then on Wednesday I got some hints the kids were thinking
of taking those ideas about a protest about open campus.”
Rosengard, who had warned the administration something was
brewing, said “if (students) came to me and said, ‘Bob, let’s do
something about the closed campus business,’ I would have talked
about that, but it’s a school board issue.”
“I certainly felt bad,” he added, saying he’d never dreamed some
students would use the guise of direct action “to cut school and
screw around.” He also said he’d been teaching the same nonviolent-
resistance lesson for three decades at the same school with no
previous problems.
While many students vowed they wouldn’t give up until the campus
was “open” and they are allowed to leave for lunch, others used the
protest as an excuse to enjoy a ditch-day in the sun. The barbecue
on the sidewalk, with sizzling beef patties from Costco, was
A few students laughed when an ex-teacher begged them to clear off
of Freedom Boulevard, which deputies had sealed for several hours,
from Highway 1 to Valencia Road. The former teacher said “you are
inconveniencing hundreds of people.”
There were no smiles on the deputies forming a line across Freedom
The deputies, pulled away from SWAT training, were not in riot gear,
but stood stone-faced with nightsticks and flex cuffs at the ready.
One deputy said it was annoying “to be here with 30 deputies when
we should be taking care of other problems.”
One held a device for lobbing tear-gas canisters. It was not used.
A few deputies were overheard joking about the protest. “Freedom,”
said one of them, holding up a fist. “No box lunches. No fish on
Students said they were baffled by the presence of deputies, who
said they were trying to prevent students from getting hurt. One said
a student had tried to “hang from the overpass,” a deputy said.
Most observers agreed the protest was for the most part peaceful.
But students said someone lobbed an egg at a school administrator’s
The deputies quelled the rapidly diminishing protest by 11:30 a.m.,
when they herded 20 or so students back up the driveway to
“Come on people, this is so stupid,” said one student to advancing
deputies. “You are way overreacting.”
Another student, James Peña, 16, taunted deputies.They, who did
not respond to his string of insults. Peña later said he was venting
“I’m a student, not a prisoner,” he said.
Administrators said those who ditched would face disciplinary actions
including possible detention or suspension, but said they would
discuss concerns with student leaders.
“We do not condone students leaving campus,” said Nancy Bilicich,
assistant superintendent. She said there were few troublemakers, and
“students need to be listened to.”
Assistant Principal Andrew Goldenkranz said he respected the fact
that students were upset, but that the protest struck him as
unfocused compared to Vietnam protests in his youth.
“In protests I’ve experienced, there was a clear message, and you
could identify the leaders,” he said.
As she watched the Friday protesters disperse before noon, Bonny
McCall, a staffer at Aptos High School, vividly remembered walking
out of class in the early 1990s to protest the Persian Gulf war.
“We were doing it just to get out of class,” McCall recalled. “But we
were fighting a war, not whether to have privileges off campus. It’s
kind of self-absorbed.”
It was the biggest student walkout at Aptos High since November
1994 when 200 students left class to protest Proposition 187, the
state initiative blocking most social services to illegal immigrants. The
measure was challenged in court. In the previous protest, three
students were arrested, and police said the initially peaceful assembly
was darkened by gang brawls.
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at)


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a seventies experience

I went to high school back in the mid-70s. Our campus was also closed. The administration cited liability issues, and also worried that high school kids all over our small tourist town would increase the litter problem.

We marched, too, but not during school hours. Instead, a large group of us paraded through town on a weekend, picking up trash from one end of the small town's main street to the other. Then we took a caravan of cars and pickup trucks out to the county landfill.

We got into the news not just for our protest, but for doing something constructive, demonstrating a sense of responsibility that our opponents claimed high schoolers lacked. Our "trash walk" didn't get an open campus right away, but it silenced the opposition and won us the moral high ground. We continued to follow through for some months afterward, mostly to secure parental approval and address liability issues. We eventually achieved open campus well before I and many of the other protesters graduated. (I was a junior at the time of the "trash walk.")

From that experience, I have three pieces of advice for Aptos High students:

1. Listen to those who oppose you, and do what you can to address their valid and fair concerns.
2. A well-organized, well-publicized demonstration that shows numbers and proper attention paid to item #1 will very often carry the day. People don't expect high schoolers to be serious about anything, and that is an advantage for you.
3. Even if item #2 is successful, don't expect instant gratification. High schoolers don't like to wait weeks, much less months or years. Unfortunately, school administrations and boards tend to move more slowly, but they will move if you keep pushing. The hardest part is maintaining the will to win over the long haul. You will be distracted by many other things along the way, so be very careful to stay on track.

Good luck. It can be done.


This article is a smear piece on a legitimate protest. It is typical of the corporate media to not take the concerns of high school students seriously and to regard a student strike as an excuse to skip school. These students do not want to be treated as prisoners and want good food. That should be their right. The playing up of the fact that cops felt inconvenienced by being sent to intimidate the students is a twisting of reality typical of Dan White, the Sentinel, and the corporate media in general. A truly independent media should instead post the student side of the story.

Aptos High students pay stiff penalty for protests

Aptos High students pay stiff penalty for protests


February 6, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

APTOS - The Aptos High School students who ditched school Friday
to stage a protest against a closed campus may find themselves
spending a little more time at school.
School officials say most of the more than 200 students will be
required to attend school on a Saturday to make up for missed
classes. A handful face suspension due to their behavior during the
protest or because their actions Friday compounded previous
There are lessons to be learned from the protest, said Andrew
Goldenkranz, assistant principal.
“One is that if you decide to engage in a protest or political act,
there’s a price you’re going to pay,” he said. “It doesn’t make them
bad people, but asks them to say ‘this is what it’s worth to me.’ “
The Saturday school likely will include a community service
component, possibly a car wash, to raise funds to help offset the
costs incurred by the Sheriff’s Office, Principal Liz Modena said. The
protest cost Santa Cruz County taxpayers thousands of dollars,
according to Kim Allyn of the Sheriff’s Office.
Allyn said the Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the protest to
identify “all the responsible parties.” They could be held liable for the
costs incurred when deputies had to be called out to clear Freedom
Boulevard, he said.
Meanwhile, the protest has raised a raft of issues on campus,
including parking, traffic, food service and the lack of activities at
lunch. The administration is planning forums in coming weeks to talk
about them.
“The protest wasn’t necessarily a good idea,” said Sean Carr, a
senior and student government leader. “But something good came out
of it. It put more issues on the table.”
Carr and other student leaders criticized Friday’s protest as poorly
organized and said other steps, such as a petition drive, could have
been taken to tackle the issue. Nevertheless, some understood the
frustration that led to Friday’s action. Students feel trapped on
campus, they said.
“It’s an issue of being checked and rechecked by officers hired to
keep you here,” said Haley Hoover, also a senior and student
government leader. “It’s like a prison, and they keep putting up more
While many students agree grievances were legitimate, some fear
the publicity put the school in a bad light. Only a small percentage of
the student body participated in the walkout, they said.
“There were 1,600 kids up here, and 200 down there,” said senior
Kelly Higginbotham. “Maybe all the kids are for it, but they knew they
just had to be in class.”
Elsa Johnson, a senior who didn’t have a first period class on Friday,
couldn’t get to school because of the blocked road. She disagreed
with the tactics of the demonstrators and their purpose. Due to the
school’s location far from restaurants where students could get
lunch an open campus wouldn’t work, she said.
“It was pretty stupid,” Johnson said.
Some students also expressed cynicism about the reasons for the
“Probably five took it seriously, and the other 230 just wanted to get
out of class,” said freshman Max Moorman.
Sophomore Franscisco Diaz said he participated in the protest to
highlight the lack of parking on campus. School officials don’t listen
when students complain, he said.
“I protested so teachers could hear us out,” he said. “Whenever we
ask about something, they ignore us.”
Other students agreed that getting the attention of school officials is
Modena said communication could be improved.
“I’m responsible for that,” she said. “It needs to be on the front
Contact Donna Jones at djones (at)


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