The scene was reminiscent of a 1960s protest, complete with angry students, hand-made signs and chants of "Hell no, we won't go."
This time, however, the subject wasn't war, but the removal of a popular administrator.
Students at Northeast High in Pasadena staged a rally outside the school yesterday morning in support of 15-year athletic director Bob Grimm, who was dismissed Wednesday by Principal Joseph Carducci Jr.
Between 250 and 300 students gathered in front of the school about 7 a.m. Some carried signs that said "Carducci -- Saddam of Northeast" and "Beep If You Want Grimm."
They waved banners and wrote messages on windshields in washable ink. One student even climbed 6 feet up a telephone pole to gain the attention of passing motorists.
"We have some great programs going on here because of Mr. Grimm," said Andy Becker, a junior. "We won state championships in softball and baseball, and he [Mr. Carducci] wants to change it. What's wrong with the way it is?" Four students were suspended after ignoring repeated pleas from Mr. Carducci to go to their first-period classes. School officials would not divulge the length of the suspensions.
"They're standing up for what they believe in," said Victoria Shade of Pasadena, whose daughter, Ericka, helped organize the protest as senior class president. "I said to go for it, it's the only way you're going to get things done."
Mr. Grimm was dismissed after receiving an unsatisfactory evaluation from Mr. Carducci. He will stay on as social studies teacher, a position he has held for 24 years.
Mr. Carducci, who has been in the job since February, cited "philosophical differences" between the principal and athletic director, and he also accused Mr. Grimm of insubordination. Thursday, the principal advertised Mr. Grimm's job and that of assistant athletic director Bart Rader, who has not received an evaluation.
"On my evaluation form, it was one paragraph. Just a few simple sentences that said that's the end of 15 years," Mr. Grimm said. "But that's his prerogative. He's the principal and he makes those decisions. It's a one-year contract and it's within his jurisdiction and authority to do that any time he chooses."
Yesterday, Mr. Grimm stood among the students and asked them to go to their first-period classes. Few listened.
"I thank you for your support, but please, go back inside," he said, speaking through a bullhorn. "Don't get yourselves in trouble. You don't have any choice right now. You have to go to school. That's what you're here for."
Miss Shade also addressed the crowd, at Mr. Grimm's request and asked that the students stop protesting. "We need to back him up, but this isn't the way to do it," she said. "We did what we had to do, we made a point, and we made everybody in this community realize how we feel."
The protest eventually moved to the school's cafeteria before ending shortly after 8 a.m.
Six county police officers arrived as the protest was ending, but they took no action. Among those suspended was one student who "made threatening gestures and made several remarks, was loud and very emotional and had to be restrained," Mr. Carducci said.
Teachers ordered students to remain in their classrooms beyond the 8 a.m. bell, as Northeast administrators worked to restore order.