SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — A group of 65 Hoover High School students walked off campus Thursday shortly after 1 p.m. to participate in a May Day march to City Hall.
While school administrators said the students had the right to express their political opinions, they could still face punitive action for the truancy violations, which could include financial fines imposed through a juvenile court.
The group of Latino students was tailed by Glendale patrol officers and a police helicopter overhead during the 2.5-mile walk to City Hall.
“All we want is rights for our children, equal rights,” 16-year-old Raymond Gonzalez said as he walked up East Broadway with a Mexican flag tacked to the front of his T-shirt.
Upon reaching the steps of City Hall, the group chanted civil rights slogans and hollered at passing cars that honked in support.
Glendale Police Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez, who is in charge of the city’s school resource officers, said all of the students who left the campus would receive truancy tickets if it was determined they lacked the support of their parents.
School administrators planned to call the parents of all 65 students, who left campus at 1:05 p.m., missing fifth and sixth periods, to determine if truancy tickets would be issued, Hoover Assistant Principal William Sterling said.
Students are not dismissed until 3:05 p.m.
While he acknowledged their right to freedom of expression, Sterling said the school in no way endorsed the students ditching class to join in the May Day demonstrations, which reportedly drew fewer than 1,000 protesters Thursday in downtown Los Angeles — compared with the nearly 500,000 who converged on the city just two years ago for May Day.
“We recognize that students have the right, as do all Americans, to free expression, but that with free expression comes consequences depending on what that free expression was,” Sterling said.
Had the students waited until 1:30 p.m., they would not have been subject to the truancy tickets, which require students and their parents to attend Pasadena Juvenile Criminal Court and face possible fines — a potential outcome Sterling said was made clear to the students as they notified school staff members of their intent to march.
“They made a knowing choice,” he said.
The possible consequences seemed to only fuel the students outside City Hall Thursday.
“We want them to hear us,” 14-year-old Shirley Ortiz said.
May Day marchers were mobilized in record numbers two years ago amid a national debate over comprehensive immigration reform that many Latinos felt discriminated against Mexican immigrants.
Last year, the number of marchers was estimated at 35,000, down from about 500,000 in 2006. The largely peaceful protests last year turned violent at a post-march rally in MacArthur Park, where about 600 protesters and journalists have claimed they were injured during police action to disperse a rowdy crowd.
Despite the political crusade’s apparent dampening, and with the possibility of a truancy ticket looming, it was important for the students to keep the spotlight on the discrimination Latinos face across the Southland, especially undocumented workers, Shirley said. “They work hard,” she said. “We deserve more attention.”
JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at email@example.com.