Readers of the Pasadena Daily News may have seen an article on Saturday with the innocuous headline “Hundreds of PHS Students Rally Against District Staff Reductions.” The article hints at some serious stuff, but in the end downplays what the police classified as a “miscellaneous disturbance.” However, a close friend of mine manages the Visual Arts and Design Academy at Pasadena High School, and yesterday he gave me the full lowdown on what he described as full-scale rioting on the PHS campus.
According to him (and the News), Pasadena School Board has disbanded the PUSD police force due to budgetary constraints, while at the same time reducing the number of security guards districtwide. This leaves PHS with no police force and four security guards. For 2,700 students. Despite the fact that the full security staff was still on board, troubles and fighting began Thursday once word spread of the impending cuts. Students planned a walk out on Friday to protest what they saw as a threat to their safety and education. Unfortunately, armed with advance warning of the impending walk out, the principal of PHS made the decision to lock everybody in rather than calling just calling the Pasadena police to hand out truancy tickets to the protesters (giving students the chance to make their statement while providing them with consequences). At that point, “everything went to hell.” Some students began climbing fences, setting trash cans on fire and charging security guards. Students not involved in the ruckus were afraid to be on campus. Eventually the Pasadena police responded in force (as did the media helicopters) and things settled down, and now the staff and students and parents are anxiously wondering what’s going to happen a week from today when students return to a new semester and fully reduced security staff.