HILLSIDE DISTRICT -- Tension between Burbank High School students has
prompted administrators to begin videotaping and breaking up groups of
more than four students meeting “in a disruptive manner,” the school’s
On Dec. 8, up to 75 students from different ethnic groups were
involved in altercations that caused the school to step up security and
request police enforcement on the campus, said principal John Hutak.
While school officials were silent on the makeup of the two groups,
students said the tensions were largely between white and Armenian
On Monday, Hutak sent a letter home to parents explaining what had
occurred the week before and what steps the school had taken to stop the
In his letter, Hutak said two incidents took place during lunch that
precipitated the problems.
The first incident was “a verbal altercation with some pushing and
shoving between two small groups of students,” Hutak said.
“The other incident was several groups of 15 to 20 students moving
about the campus in a disruptive manner,” he wrote. “Neither incident
resulted in any kind of formal disciplinary measures other than verbal
School administrators held a campuswide meeting Thursday morning to
try and resolve ethnic tensions, Hutak said, but the meeting failed to
end the problems.
On Thursday, two students were suspended for five days each after they
refused to disperse from a group of 10 to 15 students gathered during
lunch. The other students obeyed the request, Hutak said.
The problems led administrators to go over a School Wide Action Plan.
As part of that plan, large groups of students are prohibited from
gathering outside of class and school officials have been instructed to
videotape those who disobey the rule, he said.
Hutak said additional Burbank Police officers were sent to the school
to patrol the campus as a short-term solution to the problem. Campus
security also conducted random checks of backpacks, lockers and used a
metal detector wand to search for weapons. None were found, he said.
The disturbances led the school to hold a meeting with a small group
of parents Friday. Some parents expressed concerns for their children’s
Leslie Strunk, who has two daughters attending Burbank High, said she
felt better after the meeting but acknowledged that some parents remain
“My impression is that things were handled in a really good manner,”
Strunk said. “No one was hurt, no weapons were found and if there was
violence, I would want the kids perpetrating the violence to be gone. I
would expect them to be suspended, if not, expelled.”
Nathan Kavanaugh, 16, a junior, said the incidents were unsettling.
“Last week, I was starting to wonder if I feel safe enough,” he said.
“But, I purposely stay away from those groups and from getting involved.”
Kavanaugh said most of the problems were between Armenian students and
other white students. Past tensions between Hispanic and Armenian
students didn’t seem to be a factor, he said.
“The Armenian students are getting [most] of the blame, I don’t think
it’s fair” he said. “I’ve talked to some of the Armenian kids and they
say it’s over and they’re getting along with Hispanic students -- now
they’re not getting along with white students.”
Hutak declined to point the finger at a particular ethnic group. He
said the groups involved included a mix of students.
“The groups aren’t pure in one sense,” he said. “It’s not a particular
nationality or race.”
Student representatives from the school’s largest ethnic groups --
Armenians, other white students, Hispanics and Asians -- have met to
discuss the issues and will continue to meet the first Monday of each
month, Hutak said.
“They will meet every month -- even if the campus climate is good,” he