Being late for class can be a drag. And for years it was also a bore. At schools like Roosevelt and Garfield High schools, students who walked in after the bell, whether one or 15 minutes late, were sent to the dreaded tardy room, a place where they just sat, and sat, and sat for the rest of the period.
But at Roosevelt High School last year, thanks to the initiative of United Students, a collective backed by Inner City Struggle (a non-profit community organization in East L.A.), students successfully worked with school administrators to change the tardy room policy.
Because Maria’s last name starts with an “s” – Salcedo – last year she had to experience the entire breadth of her sophomore physiology course at Garfield High School sitting on the edge of a science laboratory counter.
Why? Because her classroom couldn’t fit all 63 desks needed to seat the course’s 63 enrolled students, explained Salcedo, now a junior. So the teacher, having few options left, opted to grant desk-privileges alphabetically. After all the desks had been occupied, the dozen or so students left standing were asked to sit on the room’s periphery laboratory stations for the remainder of the course.
The storefront headquarters on this main drag in East Los Angeles, one of the oldest barrios in the nation, wears its name proudly in graffiti-like lettering: InnerCity Struggle.
Inside, armed with spray bottles and paper towels, two teenagers polish the conference table to a high gloss. At computers nearby, other young people scan that day’s press reports on local school funding, which again has fallen under California’s budget ax.
Roosevelt High School's newly appointed principal, Cecilia Quemada, had barely been on the job for a month when a group of student activists approached her with a list of requests last October.
The teenagers, who are members of an organization called Youth Organizing Communities, spoke passionately about improving education for the 5,100 students who attend the severely overcrowded campus on Los Angeles' Eastside. The school is notorious for low test scores, and in 2001 it was one of 13 schools in California, and 10 in Los Angeles Unified, targeted for reform by the state.
School districts are supposed to provide military recruiters with names, addresses and phone
numbers of all high school juniors and seniors or else lose millions of dollars of federal money.
But some districts, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, now are offering students and parents
a legal way to protect their privacy or shield themselves from any pressure to prove their patriotism
during this time of possible war with Iraq.
Burdened by crowding, Van Nuys High School adopted a year-round schedule last year
to help alleviate the problem.
But in designing a multi-track calendar to accommodate the school's 2,500 students,
critics say the school has created another problem: a system that promotes academic
Patricia Cavala's school day had gotten off to a sluggish start.
The 17-year-old said she had arrived just three minutes late at Roosevelt High School in
East Los Angeles after missing the bus one morning. She was sent to the "tardy room" for
the rest of the period, and instructed to write repeatedly: "I will not be late to school.... "