At least four Northeast High School students have been suspended following a protest today outside the Pasadena school over the principal's decision not to renew the contract of Athletic Director Bob Grimm.
Between 250 and 300 students took part in the demonstration. Some carried signs in support of Grimm. They gathered in the student parking lot around 7 a.m. and eventually moved to a curb along Duvall Highway, where many remained until nearly C a.m. -- a half-hour after the bell had sounded to start school.
Six county police officers arrived as the protest was ending, but took no action.
With some students chanting his name, Grimm thanked the crowd for its support and asked the protesters to go to class.
Grimm, who has held the job for 15 years, was notified of his dismissal Wednesday afternoon after receiving an unsatisfactory evaluation from Principal Joseph Carducci Jr. The evaluation accused Grimm of insubordination and philosophical differences between the principal and athletic director.
Yesterday, Carducci advertised Grimm's job and that of assistant athletic director Bart Rader, who has not received an evaluation. Grimm would remain as a social studies teacher and Rader as an English teacher even if they are not retained in their athletic department duties.
The students were suspended for "insubordination, for inciting a riot and inciting a school disturbance and for failure to follow directives to go to classes," Carducci said.
Carducci, who became principal Feb. 1, used a bullhorn to read from a prepared statement that told students to enter the building or risk suspension. His first warning was met with a chant of "Hell, no, we won't go."
"A gathering together of students to express an opinion is OK, but I'm disappointed the students didn't honor Mr. Grimm's requests and my requests to return to classes," Carducci said.
"As long as students are willing to do what they should be doing at this time, I'm more than willing to have them in classes, which is where they should be," he said. "But there were students on top of lockers, on top of each other's shoulders. One student seemed very agitated and was looking for a fight. Those kinds of things are not good for the school."
Grimm expressed concern that the protest would be a distraction in the final days of school. "We have things we want to get done today. We have our athletic banquet tonight and graduation next week, and I hope they're not jeopardizing themselves and the things we're trying to do for them."
Carducci met with 10 students later in the morning, including junior Andy Becker, 17, a member of Northeast's 2A state championship baseball team.
"He was kind of apologetic for what happened. He also said Mr. Grimm hadn't been fired, it's just that next year he's offering the job to anyone who wants it and if [Mr. Grimm] reapplies, he will be reconsidered," Andy said.