Readers Offer Impassioned Responses to Publisher’s Column

Publisher Charlie Plowman’s column in last week’s Outlook that criticized the conduct of some young La Cañada High School fans at a recent basketball game drew the largest response in more than a decade to an issue raised by the newspaper. Today we are publishing all of the letters we have received on the issue. The Outlook does not hesitate to publish letters that are critical of the newspaper. Contributors should strive to limit letters on any subject to 250 words, and letters should be submitted by one person only and be accompanied by a current address and valid telephone number for confirmation purposes. (The Outlook has allowed some latitude on these rules today.) Anonymous letters are not accepted. Send submissions by email to outlooknews@outlooknewspapers.com. Please write “Letter to the Editor” as the subject line.

Opening the Door to Discussion

Thank you, Charlie Plowman, for speaking out about the shocking behavior of a few LCHS students at the recent CIF game. While difficult to read and comprehend, your article has opened the door to conversations about racism and homophobia within our community. Sadly, the actions of the small group you referenced overshadow the majority of our students who are inclusive and supportive. We have to do better … as parents, as school administrators and as a community. To quote Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Gillan Frame
La Cañada Flintridge


Publishing Was Right Thing to Do

As a resident and business owner in La Cañada, I need to reach out and thank Charlie Plowman for his cover story in today’s Outlook entitled “No Class Act: LCHS Students Hurl Offensive, Profane Taunts at Game.”
Publishing this story was a courageous move. I know from my years in education how defensive many parents can be, and I’m sure there will be backlash.
I applaud you for standing up for decency and for casting a light on the negligence (and cowardice, I imagine) of the adults in charge.

Lisa Kurstin
La Cañada Flintridge


He Ought to Have Acted Immediately

Hello, Mr. Plowman. I read your article last Thursday re the LCHS basketball game.
I understand that in the climate of today, these types of stories are becoming welcomed fodder for media outlets. By all means, write your story; I do not suggest that you should do otherwise. However, The Outlook is a community paper and these are minors in the community. So I would ask that in the future, please grab the principal or a teacher or yell at the kids directly or have them removed from the game. As you know, it takes a village. And, as you mentioned in your article, you too are a part of that village.
I don’t know if maybe you had better acoustics due to your location directly in front of the offending students, but I cannot imagine any teacher, parent, community member or administrator actually hearing those horrible words and taunts and doing nothing about it. You could have had your story and you could have been part of the solution at the same time by reacting during the game. Instead, you chose to be a bystander to the bullies.
I just thought it was something for you to think about. You never know when you might be faced with a similar situation again. I hope next time, you won’t just stand by.

Deb Parker
La Cañada Flintridge


Opposing Player’s Dignified Reaction

Thank you for your recent front-page feature “No Class Act.”
Author Charlie Plowman’s use of the word “despicable” is apt. I have these observations:
Where are the parents?
If the principal and superintendent fail to identify and punish the culprits, they’re complicit in this racist, homophobic behavior — especially when you consider LCHS students have behaved this way previously.
I’m in a fellowship group with two African American men, George and Xavier. They’ve taught me so much about what it means to “walk while black.” Recently, George shared this James Baldwin quote:
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.“
Unfortunately, Baldwin’s observation is still timely.
Thank you, Sedrick Altman, the Colony High School player who reacted to the LCHS racist taunts with a dignified smile. Like Jackie Robinson, young Sedrick is choosing to be better, not bitter. Perhaps his parents are willing to teach the La Cañada students, parents and LCHS leaders how to extend basic human kindness and sportsmanship.

Mark D. McIntyre
La Cañada Flintridge


Insist on Good Sportsmanship

Headlines in your Feb. 28 issue read “LCE Lions Really Care,” then “No Class Act: LCHS Students Hurl Offensive, Profane Taunts at Game.” Sounds like there’s a lot of work to do in the school district to help the older students figure out how to behave.
I really care about all young people and that is why I urge the LCHS staff to insist on good sportsmanship in their students. Otherwise, perhaps offenders need an after-school class on how to be good fans who follow the Golden Rule.
This kind of report does not make me want to have any children I care about attend LCHS.

Rosalie Niemann
La Cañada Flintridge


Supports Publisher’s Position

I was so disappointed, as Charlie Plowman was, about the behavior of some of the students at the basketball game. I commend you for taking a position and calling to task the adults who should have been responsible.

Leonard R. (Skip) Baker, M.D.
La Cañada Flintridge


Alumna Says She Is ‘Embarrassed’

As a 1979 graduate of La Cañada High whose parents lived in LCF for nearly 60 years, I am embarrassed and offended by the conduct of some individuals at the recent (and prior) LCHS sport events. Is this how we treat people? What a sad, poor reflection of our community.
Even more disturbing are reports that those in charge who witnessed the offensive behavior did nothing. Is the LCUSD Governing Board going to hold anyone accountable?

Belinda E. Bullock
Glendale


Adults Must Point Out Better Way

I want to applaud Charlie Plowman’s article about the inappropriate conduct you witnessed at the recent basketball playoff between La Cañada High School and Ontario Colony High School. Too often, our local publications work so hard to emphasize the positive (make our city look good) that they ignore real news.
As the adjudication coordinator for the California Educational Theatre Association’s High School Festival, I attend a great many performances at high schools throughout Southern California. In that capacity, I have seen a variety of behaviors in high school audiences: from mature and respectful to atavistic. In nearly every case when the audience has behaved appropriately, the director has taught proper audience behavior to his students, published these guidelines in the theater program, and/or made announcements before the curtain rises. In other words, the adult in charge has both taught and supported the enforcement of these standards of behavior. In schools where administrators support these efforts, the picture is even stronger.
I am appalled that LCHS students shouted racist comments at those players on the opposing team, and I call on all of the adults who witnessed this to take responsibility for teaching a better way.

Gale Caswell
La Cañada Flintridge


Here’s a Simple, First-Step Solution

Thank you, Mr. Plowman, for exposing the reprehensible behavior of a small group of LCHS students at the recent CIF basketball game. Appalled as I was reading the details of that night, what struck me as the real bombshell was your confirmation that racist, homophobic and profane slurs hurled at Spartan opponents with impunity is in fact, nothing new. This was no isolated incident. LCUSD leadership’s hand-wringing, mirror gazing and mea culpas are far too little, too late. As for putting an end to the inexcusable acts you document, I offer a simple first-step solution: LCHS must place an immediate end to its practice of seating students, unsupervised, across the basketball court from the adult section. Malicious hooligan behavior is emboldened when knuckleheads sit among fellow knuckleheads who egg them on. Potential troublemakers are more likely to behave respectfully when surrounded by adults. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and all adult supporters of Spartan sports: Let’s step up, shine a light on student hatemongers, demand swift and heavy consequences from LCUSD, and end this now.

Szu Wakeman
La Cañada Flintridge


Event Must Be Investigated

Kudos to you for your lengthy, detailed and courageous reporting on the shocking display you witnessed at the LCHS CIF playoff game.
This is an abysmal, embarrassing example of poor leadership from all LCHS officials in attendance and even other adults who may have been able to step in and prevent the few students who were determined to embarrass their school.
A full investigation of this event should be undertaken, and if necessary and appropriate, teachers, aides, administrators should be fired or at the very least be called to make a public apology for their lack of action. The school is fortunate indeed that tape of the incident hasn’t been aired in the national news.
As a 10-year resident whose children both attended LCHS, I demand accountability from LCHS administrators.
I must also commend The Outlook for this eyewitness report as well as the recent series exposing the deeply disturbing shenanigans involving the district and its secret payoffs to former employees. Something appears to be very rotten in Denmark. I wouldn’t necessarily have expected such courageous reporting from a local weekly. It is to The Outlook’s credit that it has stuck its neck out.

Brad Kessell
La Cañada Flintridge


Authorities Have Set Poor Example

What class act?
I was distressed and pained to read about the disgusting behavior of a section of students at a sporting event.
What kind of young people we are producing and what kind of “liberal” teachers and school administrators we have to put up with! Publisher Charlie Plowman did a commendable job to bring this out.
The rowdy students’ behavior was despicable, unsporting and uncouth, but those in charge of training the young generation to become civilized and responsible citizens were equally guilty. They had abandoned their duties to discipline those vulgar and uncultured young students. What kind of example did they show, both the students and the teachers/administrators?
What was done cannot be undone. However, even now the authorities should spring into action and take strict action against the offenders — both the students and teachers/administrators. The other side showed “complete class,” what is expected of decent growing youth who would be the pride of our community, and the nation.

Yatindra Bhatnagar
Tujunga


Here’s How Students Can Do Better

Behavior of some students of LCHS at a recent basketball game was appalling. Why? The publisher of our local paper was forced to write an article he did not want to write. Charlie Plowman, the publisher, grew up in La Cañada Flintridge. He attended the game to watch it as a former player of the coach back in the late ’80s.
Charlie witnessed administrators’ and students’ failure to represent the values of our residents, in my opinion. One solution for redemption is for these students and administrators to not only apologize but to promise to do better.
And better yet, volunteer now to do something good. One way is to ask the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada, which supports terrific kids in our elementary schools and two student organizations between the 7th and 12th grade levels, to allow them to volunteer to assist Kiwanis in the setup of its major fundraising event for children in latter September on a Saturday morning. Let the administrators learn about Kiwanis from Mike Leininger, LCHS’ former principal and current Kiwanis co-chairperson of this event. Then, they can counsel and help these students announce their involvement with a redeeming quality of awareness a full seven months in advance of Kiwanis’ popular event benefiting all children.

Bill Koury
La Cañada Flintridge


Embrace a Policy of Inclusion

Regarding the article about behavior at the LCHS basketball game:
Similar to other teachers on this campus, I came here from a different district. I found teaching here a wonderful community where the majority of students are curious, ambitious and academically inclined. Teaching at Santa Monica High School, I had this but we also had alternative perspectives, vibrancy and, well, color.
I wonder what would have happened if in 1963, when La Cañada broke from the Pasadena district, which was becoming more colorful at the time, it was decided instead to build this district to include our neighbors instead of separating them. Imagine a policy of inclusion as a cornerstone value of our district. Reconciling that move by extending an invitation to those children just on the other side of JPL could be a start. Maybe then we could begin to curtail the racist remarks said at games, the apathetic views on Black History Month, the ignorance we have about our own neighbors. Maybe then we could have a school that teaches students to be authentically curious, ambitious not just for themselves, and academically inclined to make the world a better place.

Laura Wheeler
AP Environmental Science Instructor
Health Instructor
La Cañada High School


If It Happened, Then Respond Strongly

If this incident at the basketball game actually happened as reported, then the students involved should expelled and the LCHS officials who witnessed it and did nothing should be severely disciplined. Including the LCHS official who tried to prevent the filming of it.
Everyone in La Cañada will be watching to see if this shameful conduct is swept under the carpet and ignored.

Trent Sanders
La Cañada Flintridge


ASB Challenges Outlook’s ‘Broad-Brush’ Approach

Dear Mr. Plowman:
The article you recently published regarding the alleged behavior of our students at the CIF-SS championship game has quickly become a hot topic of our community, and the story has gained massive traction since its publication on the 28th of February. As the elected government of the student body, we feel it is necessary to officially respond to your article on behalf of LCHS students.
First and foremost, racist and homophobic behavior is not condoned in any way, shape or form by the student government or administration at La Cañada. There has been a major effort from our staff to ensure that our school is an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity. Our administration is currently investigating the situation, and you can be assured that students will be held accountable to the fullest extent of their reprehensible actions.
Nevertheless, we feel that your choice to publish a front-page article was not the appropriate course of action to take. You held the ability to help de-escalate the situation in the moment, but instead you elevated what might have been a small and privately addressable incident into a community-wide issue that has done nothing but further the ugly, untrue stereotype that La Cañada High School tolerates racism.
Not only did your article target the students of La Cañada High School; it also depicted our school administration as one that stands complicit in racist behaviors. In the spirited and energized environment of a basketball game, it is simply unfeasible for our small group of administrators to monitor every student and hear everything said by each student. If you observed “grotesque” misbehavior by students, why did you not address those students personally, or report said students to school or CIF officials? If, as you claim, students were launching a “barrage [of] insults about the opponent’s ethnic heritage, to gibes about their supposed sexual identity,” you failed to help protect the targets of that abuse by saying nothing in the moment. To the student body, it appears quite vindictive, even if that was not your intent, that you stood by while all these insults were said, seeing it as nothing more than an opportunity to write an article about.
Your article does more than spotlight the unacceptable behavior of a small group of students. It made broad-brush allegations of racism and homophobia that reflect upon our basketball team, students, administrators, school and community. By indiscriminately directing your allegations at the entire LCHS student body and administration, you are tainting our basketball team’s reputation within CIF, and undermining the accomplishments of the team this year. Despite coming up short in the final seconds of the game, our boys have dedicated their entire high school careers for the opportunity to play in the CIF championship, and the Spartan Nation stepped up to support their team. You have turned all of the local attention away from that joy and onto the actions of a few individuals during a single game.
As a news publication, it is your responsibility to present the facts in an unbiased manner to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions based on the facts presented. We take issue with the way that your article asserts personal opinions and incomplete facts as factual journalism. The underlying purpose of your article is cloudy, and your closing challenge directed at Principal Cartnal and Superintendent Sinnette leaves the impression that you were attempting to create a local controversy.
Media that is used to divide communities and stir up controversy is the enemy of a united people. We as a student government recognize that profane language is unacceptable and that students should cheer in a sportsmanlike manner. To reduce such behaviors, ASB will work closely with our Athletic Leadership Council to promote students to support our team in a positive manner. In collaboration with our administrators, future incidents will be prevented. Increased oversight from our administration coupled with Student Leaders encouraging supportive cheers and sportsmanlike conduct will hopefully bring La Cañada a long-standing reputation for having one of the most spirited and sportsmanlike student sections within the CIF Southern Section.
We, as La Cañada High School students, look forward to learning and growing from this experience, and invite you to be a part of that process. The four core values of La Cañada athletics are leadership, integrity, commitment and excellence, and we will strive to ensure that all Spartans can represent the best of these qualities.
We thank you for your time, and Go Spartans!

43 Associated Student
Body leaders
La Cañada High School


School District Reaffirms Commitment to Values

On Saturday, Feb. 23, our tireless La Cañada High School boys’ basketball team faced off against Colony High School from Ontario at the Azusa Pacific University Felix Event Center in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A championship game. Our Spartans performed valiantly under the direction of head coach Tom Hofman and were cheered on enthusiastically by more than 300 of their student colleagues from LCHS.
Last Thursday, a different story on the game dropped in this publication: a story of severely inappropriate fan behavior at this game by a group of students. The author of this article, Mr. Plowman, described a situation of racial and homophobic slurs hurled throughout the game from students standing behind the press table where he was seated.
I’ve known Mr. Plowman for many years, have served on committees with him and believe him to be a man of the highest integrity. The Outlook has been a strong partner to the school district for many years helping to share our story with the community.
This type of behavior is UNACCEPTABLE whether it’s from one or a hundred students. The frustration is that none of our staff heard these vile remarks during the game nor was it brought to their attention. The high school had a total of 16 administrators/staff on hand to help manage the crowd. They communicated with students before the game and also laid down the law on the buses prior to going into the arena. Staff was spread out throughout the student section, but none heard these remarks. There was no comment from any folks representing Colony High.
The district is still in the process of investigating the incident. Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and LCHS Principal James Cartnal both responded to the school community with emails on Thursday.
Moving forward, we reaffirm our commitment to instilling strong core values in our students and fostering a culture of care, tolerance and inclusion.
Teachers at LCHS have begun the process of conducting open discussions during class regarding the incident and the effects of inappropriate behavior. Starting next season, prior to each game, the administrator in attendance will take the mic prior to the game and announce that he/she is the administrator in charge, warn about inappropriate behavior and request that if folks hear anything inappropriate, to bring it to his/her attention. Lastly, the high school administration will continue its investigation and apply appropriate discipline to those who participated.
We received many emails about this game highlighting how well the vast majority of students behaved and the effusive Spartan school spirit that was generated from the recent basketball events. We are grateful to those of you who reached out to remind us that the vast majority of our students are thoughtful and gracious in their interactions with the greater community.
We acknowledge that the high school years are both exciting and sometimes challenging for both students and the adults who help guide them through these years. But we are very fortunate here in La Cañada that we have parent and community partners who work with our faculty and staff to support our students’ accomplishments and aspirations and help them learn from their missteps. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. We maintain our commitment to our students, families, faculty and staff and are thankful for the continuing support of our LCUSD community.

Brent Kuszyk
President, La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board


Superintendent’s Letter to LCUSD Community

Dear LCUSD Community,
In a community where we identify our schools as the fabric that knits us together, a headline and lead article like the one that appears on the front page of today’s [Feb. 28’s] Outlook is cause for alarm and deep concern, as well as a call for serious and corrective action.
I, along with the LCUSD Governing Board, LCHS Principal, LCHS Administrative Team, and LCHS Teachers, and Staff, all shared with you today a visceral reaction to what was portrayed in print. We immediately set about prioritizing and acting upon competing needs to investigate, to take appropriate disciplinary steps, and to engage in teaching and learning about core ethical values. All of those responses are in motion, and I will outline them for you — but before I do so I need to speak with you directly, as your Superintendent, about our kids and what we know at LCHS.
The student who brought the newspaper article to Principal Cartnal’s attention this morning is central to the message I want to share with you. He was hurt and devastated by the article because he worked tirelessly with his student colleagues to organize the fan buses. He was invested in helping to create for his peers the opportunity to come out and cheer, to build some Spartan Spirit — and to cultivate a high school memory in the process. Similarly, in my conversations today, our LCHS Administrators and Staff have shared detailed accounts of calling on students before the playoff games and reminding them about appropriate fan behavior. The administration, teachers, and staff supervising the event have described for me how they mapped out stations for maximizing student support and crowd control. We have scoured over pictures of the crowd, and they have pointed out all of the staff who volunteered that night. These photos show staff engaged with kids and doing exactly what you would want them to be doing to ensure that our students are safe and behaving appropriately. The LCHS adults are present, attentive, and working — they are energetically supervising our students. In my inquiries today, I have only discovered cases of people acting for the collective good and having operated deliberately and intentionally for the benefit of La Canada High School.
My words to you do not contain an ounce of deflection, cover-up, or denial of responsibility. If racist or homophobic taunts or slurs were said, it is inexcusable, unconscionable, and as a school and a district who holds our responsibility to partner with parents to teach the values of kindness, inclusion, and dignity as our preeminent role, I will not make excuses. But I will also not condemn our kids with a broad-stroked brush and cast the behaviors of what may be a few isolated students onto the whole of our student body. I know that there have been past reports that have surfaced in the newspapers or been conveyed to administrators regarding behaviors like these by our students. These behaviors are unacceptable. As a result, investigations were conducted. Learning and disciplinary consequences were given — learning consequences by which students faced their actions, lost privileges or gave back to the community, and engaged in processes of restorative justice — they got to experience redemption because that is what it means to be human and a member of a caring community.
The LCHS Administration is investigating the charges levied in the Outlook. The Administrators took pre-emptive steps and will now take responsive ones. Where applicable, disciplinary consequences will be meted out. We will also review our policies and protocols related to an LCHS Fan Code of Conduct. And, we will expand the work of the Positive Coaching Alliance to our Spartan fan base.
But, our administrators and staff helping to supervise this weekend did not pre-apply the guilt of prior student transgressions automatically to the fans at Saturday’s championship game. If our investigations identify wrong-doings, we will take action. However, we also continue to ask our adult community partners to play a role — if you hear something, report it. If you see something, report it. An administrator — just like a parent would, will respond immediately, then and there, and identify consequences. But, alongside our commitment to being vigilant and responsible grown-ups, LCUSD Administrators, Teachers, Staff, and Parents, will also engage in due process. Whether responding to good choices or poor ones, we will love our students throughout their journey because that is our role as adults in LCUSD. We believe in our students and we have faith in who we can help them become.

Very sincerely,
Wendy Sinnette
Superintendent

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