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Police respond to San Diego County high school after student protest ‘escalates’

The sign for Grossmont High School is shown.
El Cajon police responded Monday to Grossmont High School over a protest by students against the school’s dress code.
(Karen Pearlman / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A student protest over the dress code at San Diego County’s Grossmont High School “escalated” Monday afternoon, with apples and water bottles being thrown and students refusing to return to class after lunch, prompting a police response, a school district spokesman said.

Officers from the El Cajon Police Department were sent to the campus after school officials called for a “secure campus,” a type of lockdown, according to Grossmont Union High School District spokesman Collin McGlashen.

“To calm the situation and keep students safe, a ‘secure campus’ was called, and a law enforcement response was required,” McGlashen tweeted. “Law enforcement remains on campus to ensure an orderly return to class so the school day can continue.”

McGlashen tweeted at 3 p.m. that after discussions between high school staff members and leaders of the protest, the demonstration ended and the school day continued.

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Four students “were detained — for the safety of themselves and others — and released,” McGlashen tweeted. “Students are safe. Law enforcement remained on campus out of an abundance of caution as the school day continued.”

Images posted on Twitter showed one person on a gurney and a student jumping onto white cloth that apparently had been used as a banner. Principal Dan Barnes said the person seen on the gurney had an asthma attack unrelated to the dress code protest.

El Cajon Police Lt. Randy Soulard said he didn’t have much information on the incident, but that as of 2 p.m., the scene was “still fairly active.” He said officers remained on the campus.

“The school district is handling this incident and any resulting investigation or discipline,” Soulard wrote in a follow-up email. “The El Cajon Police were on scene to ensure the safety of the children on campus.”

It was not immediately clear what part of the dress code students were protesting, and McGlashen did not immediately respond to messages seeking more information about whether the policy was recently changed.

The dress code prohibits about 20 clothing items, including sleeveless garments; strapless shirts or tube tops; spaghetti straps; sagging pants; miniskirts and short shorts; sports jerseys other than school athletic jerseys; spiked jewelry; clothing displaying logos of racist groups or gangs; and clothing advertising alcohol, tobacco, drugs or sex-related brands such as Playboy and Hustler.

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According to the school’s website, the dress code is “a dynamic document” that can be changed anytime throughout the school year, and consequences for breaking the dress code range from the school providing a change of clothing to suspension.

Kucher, Pearlman and Riggins write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Updates

3:58 p.m. Sept. 13, 2021: This story was updated with additional details.

5:56 p.m. Sept. 13, 2021: This story was updated with more information about the dress code and the apparent reason for the protest.

5:24 p.m. Sept. 13, 2021: This story was updated with additional information.

4:21 p.m. Sept. 13, 2021: This story was updated with additional details.


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