Students Walk Out

Mike Cruz and Charlotte Hsu, San Bernardino County Sun, May 2, 2007

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A march that took about 150 to 200 students from Arroyo Valley High School in the San Bernardino City Unified School District to San Bernardino City Hall appeared to be one of the area’s largest demonstrations. A half-dozen patrol cars flanked students during the short walk, ensuring they remained on sidewalks and out of harm’s way.

An estimated 20 to 25 students left Carter High School in Rialto, said Syeda Jafri, a Rialto Unified School District spokeswoman. Colton Joint Unified reported no walkouts.

The sharp drop in numbers of students walking out this year—an estimated 1,100 students walked out of Pacific High School alone last year—mirrored statewide trends. Rallies that drew hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles last year drew about 25,000 Tuesday.

Locally, school staff say they prepared for May 1 this year by sending letters and making telephone calls to parents, asking them to ensure students stayed in school.

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Delgado stood before City Hall early Tuesday afternoon, watching as students crowding a short flight of steps chanted, “S , se puede” and “Viva Mexico,” “Yes, it can be done” and “Long live Mexico.”

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Police arrested a man for trying to incite the youngsters, but the demonstration was otherwise peaceful, said San Bernardino Police Department Lt. Don Soderbloom. About two dozen law enforcement officials, including school police, were at the rally around noon.

Erick Navarro, 15, an Arroyo Valley sophomore who helped organize the walkout, said he hoped students’ efforts would help propel activists’ fight for immigration reform.

He said his mother is an undocumented immigrant from Michocan, Mexico, who works in a local market.

“Without us, there won’t be much work (done) because we’re the backbone of America,” Erick said of immigrants and their families.

Several students said they were proud of their Mexican heritage, and that they had talked about the walkout with their parents and believed it was important to pursue a legal right to work for immigrants.

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Another student, Tracy Munoz, said students handed out fliers to spread the word about the walkout and the need for immigration reform.

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Delgado briefly addressed the crowd of students, who held Mexican and American flags and poster boards, through a megaphone.

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Whereas organizers of some marches this year and last year encouraged people to carry U.S. flags during the demonstration, Mexican flags outnumbered American ones at Tuesday’s City Hall rally.

Veronica Arreola, 15, an Arroyo Valley freshman, said she didn’t think Mexican flags would alienate non-Mexican observers. Carrying the flag and chanting “Viva Mexico” is important, she said, because students should be proud of their heritage and the work that immigrants do.

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