After vandalism at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School's football stadium led to the arrest of some Palos Verdes High School students, teens at both schools say enough is enough.
Students from the schools recently met at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District offices for a joint student summit to address “unity in the community,” PVPUSD Chief Academic Officer Martin Griffin said.
Last month’s meeting was organized weeks after the stadium at Peninsula High School was vandalized. Since there has been rivalry on both sides, Griffin said administrators realize the challenge that is before them.
“We want school pride for each individual school, but how can we remember we come from one community?” Griffin said.
The meeting, which was held at the district office on Nov. 19, was a time for the 28 students who attended to gain a better understanding of their schools and each other, according to Griffin. They discussed the rivalries between the schools and talked about possible solutions to end them.
“I think the rivalry will exist, but we want to make sure it’s a positive rivalry,” Griffin said.
In a joint statement signed by Palos Verdes High School Associated Student Body, or ASB, President Pecko Lin and Palos Verdes Peninsula High School ASB President Theo Wendorff, the students who participated in the summit expressed a desire to come together and help heal the rift between the schools. The statement reads in part:
On behalf of both the Sea Kings and Panthers communities, we sincerely apologize for the manner in which the incident was handled, as well as for the actions of some students. Our student leaders have been able to accept each other’s apologies and move forward. Consequently, we hope that the student bodies of both schools and community will follow.
Mitzi Cress, principal of Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, said she thought it was “a great idea” to hold the summit and allow students from both schools the opportunity to share their opinions and learn from each other.
“Communication is so important and I think that each group learned a lot about the other's school community,” Cress said via email. “My students felt that it was a great starting point and they believe that joint projects and activities will bring the two school communities together for common causes. Hopefully sports competitions will be viewed for what they are ... just a game, or just a match. Our students must remember to cheer for their team and not against the other team.”
Many families in the school district actually have children at both schools.
“I believe the unhealthy aspects of our relationship lie with a handful of students who are making poor behavioral choices,” Cress said.
Griffin said he is confident the students will now work together in the coming months to try to “change the attitudes and behaviors” at both schools.
“I believe in the power of our youth and our students,” Griffin said. “The student leaders say they want to transform the culture, and I think what they have come up with will lead to that end.”
Students from the ASB organizations at both schools plan to begin holding joint monthly meetings after the winter break, Griffin said.
Palos Verdes High School Principal Nick Stephany's office referred telephone calls to Griffin.