Hundreds of L.A. Unified students skip class to protest teacher layoffs

Hundreds of students from Santee High School marched to LA Unified headquarters to protest planned teacher layoffs.
Hundreds of students from Santee High School marched to LA Unified headquarters to protest planned teacher layoffs.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

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L.A. Unified students are the latest group to protest teacher layoffs. Several hundred high school students marched to school district headquarters in downtown L.A.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: A week ago, police arrested 39 people in the same location, mostly teachers, for failing to disperse during a layoff protest. In this latest demonstration, students walked from neighboring schools, mostly from Santee High just south of district headquarters.

[Students chanting]

Guzman-Lopez: The students had planned the march days earlier by word of mouth and through text messages. Santee 11th grader Wendy Campos credits a teacher two years ago for giving her faith that career opportunities are within her reach.

Wendy Campos:One of my favorite teachers is getting laid off and I don't think it's fair because I think she's a really, really good teacher. Ms. Reagan, she was our history teacher in the 9th grade.

I was a slackoff in freshman year but something about her captivated me to learn more. She made classes interesting for me, you know. I actually focused and I passed the class with an A.

Guzman-Lopez: Campos says she may pursue cosmetology, massage therapy, or teaching kindergarteners. Most of the Santee High teachers who've received pink slips are just beginning their careers.

It's a shame the school is losing them, said Marshall Tuck. He's the CEO of the Partnership for L.A. Schools, the non-profit group that runs Santee.

Marshall Tuck: It's a terrible cycle that's a complete injustice, where we're taking young people who don't have a lot of structure in their own lives. Their structure is their school.

We have young, dedicated teachers who want to be there and yet they're getting bumped out of their positions because of the budget crisis. It's just not fair, and I think that's what the students are talking about.

Guzman-Lopez: Students said they took to the streets because they felt L.A. Unified administrators were cloistered in their high rise offices and hadn't heard their protests. L.A. Unified's top adminstrator, Superintendent Ramon Cortines, engaged in a tete-a-tete about budgets and school district politics with 12th grader Christian Lopez.

Christian Lopez: Are you OK with teachers protesting, then? Because it was the teachers who were going to do something on Friday, right?
Ramon Cortines: Let me tell you, I was at a school on Friday, the teachers protested before school. They protested after school, everything.

Guzman-Lopez: Students said they'll continue to pressure the district. That's unlikely to stop the looming budget cuts. The district sent out nearly 6,000 layoff notices two months ago.

More than half of those won't be carried out, the district says, thanks to early retirements and budget readjustments. That still leaves 2,2000 employees, mostly teachers, set to lose their jobs in a month.