How Not to Deal with Shenanigans at a School That’s Ready to Pop

Many have read local news accounts of the water balloon incident that took place at Sonoma Valley High School this past Friday.  After interviewing several eyewitnesses, we believe that unless student perspectives are taken more seriously, the root causes of this event may be misunderstood by the community at large. If that happens, matters at the high school are likely to continue to get worse before they get any better. We should all hope to avoid that if we can.

Last Friday at lunch, the senior class arranged for a water balloon fight in the school’s parking lot, intending just a harmless prank and some innocent fun.  A majority of seniors brought their own ammo of balloons from home and prepared themselves for the event. The fight continued on for about 15 minutes, with administrators filming the entire sight with their smartphones. At around 12:45, an announcement was reported over the intercom, declaring that the school’s lunch had been cut short and all students were required to return back to classes. Students were disappointed and walked back to class hesitantly.

Once seniors approached campus grounds, most noticed that many students from other grade levels were not listening to the orders. Likewise, most of the school population then refrained from going back to class and gathered around the school’s rotunda. Students began badmouthing the unfairness of losing their lunch and that the entire school had to face consequences for the actions of the senior class. Soon, all abusive remarks were directed towards the school’s administrators and the school as a whole. There, a mob mentality was brought into the atmosphere.

The key question is this.  Did the senior class truly instigate the aggressive protests that went on this past Friday?  Or did they simply catalyze something that has been boiling between the student body and administration for some time? Is it appropriate to scapegoat and suspend individual students, when by many accounts it was actually the administration’s unfair response to the harmless water balloon fight that escalated the situation causing it to deteriorate into a riot?

Whether this question can be answered black or white, or has its gray zones, it is apparent that changes are needed at Sonoma Valley High School to ensure the safety of the student body.

Such incidents don’t happen in a vacuum. Students today are well aware that their elders’ institutions are failing to meet their needs. Good jobs are not there for everyone, and the costs of education, healthcare, and housing are all skyrocketing. Meanwhile, the issues that do get young people out into the streets, such as fair wages, immigration reform, murders by police, campus rape cover-ups, climate change, fracking, etc., don’t seem to get enough attention, even after they shut those streets down. Seriously, ask a young person about gay marriage. Most have no idea why old folks are even still talking about this… “whatever”.

May 1st is known to be International Workers’ Day, in celebration of the 19th century unions that advocated for 8 hour day movement; 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, and 8 hours of rest. What occurred May 1st, 2015, may coincidentally mark the start of some needed changes at SVHS.

The kids are alright. Is anyone listening?

– Stephanie Angulo and Tom Conlon,  Transition Sonoma Valley Steering Team

Ms. Angulo graduates from SVHS this month, and has been accepted into Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute in Washington. In the Fall of 2015  she will enroll in the 3/2 Engineering Program at Occidental College, where she will have the opportunity to complete her studies at Caltech or Columbia University.  She has also been awarded the first annual Transition Sonoma Valley Student Scholarship.

One thought on “How Not to Deal with Shenanigans at a School That’s Ready to Pop”

  1. I would add the following facts and feedback –

    1. The majority of the seniors were having a lot of innocent fun
    2. There were a few that took it a bit further by throwing a bucket of water at an annonymous car
    as it drove through the parking lot
    3. That’s when Kathleen called lunch and it was actually a bit before 12:45
    4. At that time the students decided to stage a “sit-in” in the quad area to protest
    5. On the main campus all other students were unaware of the happenings in the parking lot and were therefore
    quite confused as to why lunch was being called so early and understandably frustrated by this
    6. As the campus is quite large and loud during lunch many students had no idea what was going on as they couldn’t hear, hadn’t seen the events and were only witnessing a mob of seniors banding together
    7. As the crowd gathered and students were confused and angered for a myriad of reasons (didn’t have time to get lunch, eat lunch, confused as to where they should going, not being able to hear, etc.) the crowd in the quad area became fractured and that’s when the problems began to occur

    Student feedback – these are comments made directly to me

    1. If admin would have simply removed the students with the bad behavior from the parking lot, all of this could have been avoided (this was the overwhelming response I heard)
    2. Students view “too much has changed” at school – changes have been arbitrary and without student input
    3. Many students really didn’t seem to feel as though it was “that big of a deal”
    4. The overall student feeling was “the admin didn’t handle the situation well”
    Can’t arbitrarily cancel lunch – response was too “heavy handed”

    That all being said – It was only feedback from about 80 students.

    Also, it should be noted that admin has definitely shown up and offered students venues for their input, made themselves available to feedback and appear to genuinely be interested in learing from this experience.

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