In the span of four months, Corona del Mar High School has seen troubles and controversy usually reserved for inner-city schools.
First there was the announcement early this year of the production of “Rent” by the school’s drama department. “Rent” has many references considered by some to be offensive, including those for drugs, homosexuality and AIDS. Although the department was presenting the high school script, in which the references are reduced and toned down, the announcement raised eyebrows in the community.
The uproar was followed almost immediately by its cancellation in favor of a production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Ah, but the controversy over the controversy was too much, and “Rent” was back in production at the school.
The play was staged in April, and thanks to the February bungling was protested by the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., and is the focus of an ACLU lawsuit.
What should have been a few days of performances of a play that would have then been forgotten instead drew national attention because of its cancellation, reinstatement and the “he said/she said” over who was responsible for the mess.
To make matters better or worse, depending on one’s point of view, the production has won four regional awards from the National Youth Theatre and is up for three more awards on Sunday.
“The controversy really helped unify myself and the cast — we weren’t just putting on a play, we were actually all working together to make a statement,” drama teacher Ron Martin was quoted as saying.
Then there is the case of one Chad Everett Smith (no relation), a Corona del Mar High teacher who was arrested last week on suspicion of supplying marijuana to a 16-year-old student. Smith was freed on $50,000 bail. The bail looked high to me, so I asked Newport Beach Police Department spokesman Sgt. Evan Sailor whether it was related to the teacher’s occupation and the fact that he was supervising the minor involved.
“That bail is from a set bail schedule that is set by the state for each specific statute,” Sailor replied via e-mail. “It does not correlate to his job occupation. We can always apply for a bail increase or a no bail at all depending on the charges. We would need to articulate why the need for either. In this case with only one victim, we would be unable to increase the bail.”
But wait, there’s more! In what was described as a “senior prank at Corona del Mar High School,” about 20 vandals earlier this month “spray-painted the walls and doors of the school with some benign and some profane expressions, dumped bleachers and soccer goals into the swimming pool, glued pennies to locks and covered trees with toilet paper,” according to the story in the Daily Pilot.
The “prank” caused approximately $8,000 in damage and could lead to 20 students alleged to be involved in the vandalism getting suspensions or being expelled.
Yes, you read it correctly. District officials said the students “could” be suspended or expelled. So, exactly how does one suspend or expel any graduating seniors involved?
I have another idea: Call the police and have them all arrested or cited.
As to why these vandals have not been arrested or cited, Sailor said, “As far as I can tell, CdM never reported the crimes to us. I spoke with our records section, dispatch and juvenile crimes supervisors and no one had a record of any contact or reporting from the high school. If they choose to file a criminal report, we will conduct a criminal investigation. As of today [June 20], they have not come forward and requested any assistance.”
Had this not been a senior “prank,” that is, had someone, for example, come in and stolen $8,000 worth of computers, there would have been a police report, an investigation and possibly an arrest. But because this destruction is labeled a “prank,” the $8,000 in damage gets the students clean-up duty. This is a good time to remember that a year ago, several students from Estancia High School were cited by the Costa Mesa Police Department for draping toilet paper over trees and grass along Mesa Verde Drive and on Placentia Avenue.
Is there trouble in paradise? Could be. Or it could be that the wagons around the school aren’t being circled tightly enough.
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org .