Hoover High School student leaders Evelyn Moratian, 17, and Britney Moreno, 17, start the meeting with initial comments to frame the issues that about 150 Hoover students are asking in GUSD headquarters on Monday, October 29, 2018. The march, which started at Hoover High through very busy Glendale streets under police escort to the Glendale Unified School District headquarters, was inspired to gain answers to why last Thursday’s homecoming game against Glendale High and later homecoming were cancelled.(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)
More than 200 students walked out of classes at Hoover High School Monday morning shortly before the start of first period in a demonstration against the Glendale Unified School District’s cancellation of last Thursday’s cross-city rivalry football game and homecoming festivities weeks after a brawl broke out at the school, leaving tensions high on campus.
Students began a roughly 2-mile march at 8 a.m. down Glenwood Road toward Pacific Avenue en route to district headquarters at 223 N. Jackson St., where walkers started filing into the board of education chambers about 45 minutes later.
Students were escorted by Glendale police in cruisers and motorcycles with helicopters also patrolling as members of district staff walked with the students and monitored the situation.
The protest comes on the heels of district officials cancelling the “Battle for the Victory Bell” football game between Hoover and Glendale high schools at Glendale’s Moyse Field on Thursday about 2½ hours before kickoff.
Members of both schools’ Associated Student Body organizations spent the the day before the scheduled game setting up banners, balloons and decorations, while fans began to line up at the stadium’s entrance when the district’s decision was announced.
“We have heard increased rumors of possible disruptions at the homecoming game that put student, employee and spectator safety at risk,” according to the district’s statement. “The GUSD is legally and ethically obligated to prevent foreseeable risks to its students, and we believe this obligation extends to everyone in attendance at tonight’s game.”
The cancellation was the first in a rivalry that dates back to 1930.
The cancellation’s root cause stems back to the on-campus melee on Oct. 3 at Hoover High in which members of the football team were involved, allegedly as they helped defend a special needs student against bullying by an Armenian student.
The district has pushed back, saying that reason is “only conjecture,” while labeling the fight’s cause as “a miscommunication.”
It’s been three weeks and the district still hasn’t told us what happened.”
Those answers, however, were not good enough for throngs of students who headed into the district chambers wanting to hear more from district personnel.
“The cancellation of the [Beat Glendale Day] activities was the most important thing for me, because I’m a senior,” Hoover student Richenza Puno said. “It’s really unfair for us to not be able to experience that our last year. We want to know why.”
Hoover senior Stephanie Majinian added, “We’ve been told over and over about what the fight wasn’t about and who wasn’t involved. It’s been three weeks, and the district still hasn’t told us what happened.”
Inside district headquarters, seniors Evelyn Moratian and Britney Moreno led a discussion about the unease on campus since Oct. 3.
“Through recent events that have happened at Hoover, we’re all very tense,” Moratian said. “After what happened on Oct. 25 and the cancellation of [the rivalry] game just hours before it happened and the rescheduling of homecoming, this pushed the student body over the edge.”
Moratian and Moreno added that students wanted a rescheduling of the football game, a “whole and truthful statement” about what happened at the fight, “real” reasons behind the cancellation and an apology from district officials.
Glendale Unified Supt. Winfred Roberson Jr. said he recognized the tensions and responded, “The entire school district is behind you. Your 1st Amendment rights, this is a clear demonstration of student expression. You are supposed to be in class right now, but our main goal is that you’re safe.”
He added, “I understand that … students want to know why the game was cancelled and the decision was made between site administration and the district office as to why the game was cancelled. Hoover is rescheduling the homecoming events.”
It’s unlikely the football game can be played because the regular season has concluded and the CIF Southern Section playoffs are beginning this weekend.
Hoover principal Jennifer Earl said the homecoming dance will be held on Dec. 20.
“While I know you want answers to everything right this moment, I will assure that I will meet with groups and tell you exactly what I can,” she said.
Roberson received smiles and “thank yous” when he announced that buses would be arriving shortly to take students back to campus.
On the flip side, board president Greg Krikorian was booed by students when he was introduced to students at district headquarters.
The Hoover father took issue with the protest because schools such as Crescenta Valley and Glendale also lost homecoming games due to four Hoover forfeits since Oct. 3, and those students hadn’t walked out.
“Those schools’ homecomings were impacted, too, and they handled it in a different way,” Krikorian said. “There’s ways to handle things. This way is OK, we’re here and this is where we’re at.”
Krikorian added, “We promise you there’s reasons why this was postponed, the situation was to protect the safety of students. It wasn’t threats.”
No further explanation was given by Krikorian, who also blamed the media for fueling racial tensions.
“I challenge the media,” he said. “The media has been involved in this in so many ways and dividing the community, dividing races and making it an ethnic thing.”
Hoover football player and wrestler Dakarri Malone was not satisfied after the walkout meeting.
“We want answers,” Malone said. “They cancelled our game because of ‘threats,’ but then are saying there are ‘no threats.’ They told us ‘to stop listening to rumors,’ but they cancelled our game because of rumors.”