NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA – The Armenian National Committees (ANC) of East and West San Fernando Valley mobilized on March 8 when a fight broke out between several hundred Armenian and Latino students at Grant High School requiring police intervention. The incident resulted in the arrest of four and expulsion of eight students, and has garnered significant attention on television news, talk radio, and print media. The ANC met the following day with the Committee on Armenian Students in Public Schools (CASPS) and Grant High School officials to immediately quell the alarming situation.
Within two days after the incident, the ANC co-sponsored meeting with parents and Grant High School officials which was attended by over 300 people. During the entire week after the incident, members of the ANC were on campus collaborating with parents of Armenian students and school administrators to analyze the causes leading to the incident and how to prevent such incidences from occurring in the future.
“The fights that broke out at Grant High School between Latino and Armenian students are of serious concern to all communities including the Armenian American community,” stated Manug Haladjian, Chairman of the East San Fernando Valley ANC. “This has been an issue at Grant High School in prior years, and this latest incident is evidence that this issue must be taken more seriously by all concerned parties,” continued Haladjian.
The ANC and CASPS recently organized several meetings on the issue with experts in the field from various schools in the area. In addition to meeting experts, parents, students, and school officials, on March 17, the ANC and CASPS also met with representatives from the City and County of Los Angeles Human Resources Commission, and the offices of State Senator Richard Alarcon, Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, and Los Angeles Councilwoman Wendy Gruel to arrange a meeting between Armenian and Latino leaders in the area.
“Excellent education can only be achieved through a safe, healthy and positive school environment that fosters respect and understanding for all cultures,” said Ara Papazian, who chairs the West San Fernando Valley ANC. “We strongly encourage school officials to view this issue with an eye toward system-wide, long-term solutions that raise the level of cultural understanding among school administrators, teachers, students, and parents.”
Beginning in 2004, the ANC recognized the need to address the issues facing the increasing number of Armenian students in the public schools. The ANC began implementing a course of action which sought to raise awareness of the challenges facing the Armenian students and look for ways to improve their educational environment. Over the past six months, the ANC has organized meetings with Los Angeles Unified School District Officials, including School Board Member Jon Lauritzen, Grant High School Principal Sandra Cruz, and various other LAUSD administrators and teachers.
In an effort to improve their understanding of the cultural differences of Armenian students, 20 educators from Grant High School, including Principal Cruz, will be participating in the March 30 Armenian Cultural Conference in Pasadena. Now in its tenth year, the Armenian Cultural Conference, which is sponsored by the school districts of Burbank, Glendale, EIEP of Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Montebello, aims to raise awareness and understanding of the Armenian culture among public school teachers and administrators, so that they may deliver more effective and culturally sensitive education to students of Armenian descent. The ANC, along with CASPS and Grant High School, will co-host a meeting on March 31 with parents of Armenian students at Grant High School to discuss concerns and start looking for long-term solutions and programs to address the various issues with Armenian youth in public schools. In addition, a meeting will be organized for students to air their concerns in April. On May 4, the ANC, CASPS, and Grant High School will host a town hall meeting for the entire community on this issue.
“We stand ready to work with school officials, parents, students and other community groups in the spirit of partnership, implementing programs that will address these issues and their root causes,” affirmed ANC leaders in a joint statement released last week.