Beverly Hills School District Stages Student “Walkout” Against Metro Subway

Beverly Hills students rallying against Metro subway construction today. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Beverly Hills students rallying against Metro subway construction today. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier today at Beverly Hills’ Will Rogers Park, the Beverly Hills School District staged what they called a “walkout” where students converged to rally against Metro. The Beverly Hills School District has fought unsuccessful legal challenges against Metro’s plan to tunnel the Westside Purple Line extension underneath Beverly Hills High School.

The term “walkout” is in quotes because this was not a walkout in the traditional sense that students were risking anything skipping out of class to make a courageous political point. They weren’t even walking. The official permission slip for the “Community Walkout” specifies “Students will NOT be walking! Bus transportation to Will Rogers Memorial Park will be provided from and back to ALL​ BHUSD schools.”

Much like a school field trip, the school district directed students to get permission slips signed. Students were transported to and from the rally site via a fleet of roughly 20 district school buses.

The BHUSD website hosts a walkout Q&A with tidbits like this:

This is a unique opportunity for our elementary and middle school students to learn how to socially advocate for themselves in a peaceful act of solidarity. This teachable moment will help students see the connection between curriculum and real life on a subject that will have great impact on their future and for generations to come.

As revealed by the Beverly Hills Weekly, the person working hard to pull off the “walkout” was Beverly Hills School Board President Lisa Korbatov. In an audio recording obtained and posted by the Weekly, Korbatov takes credit for the anonymous “Stop the Purple Threat” website, urges people to turn out kids to the rally, and outlines the objective: to garner media attention to push President Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to intervene to delay and re-route Metro subway construction.

BHUSD buses took students to and from today’s “walkout”

At Will Rogers Memorial Park this morning, buses dropped 1,000-1,400 students from Beverly Hills elementary, middle, and high schools. Several hundred adults – teachers, school staff, Beverly Hills Police, and parents – managed the crowds of participants.

Some arriving students used materials provided to make signs. Others picked up pre-printed signs.

Beverly Hills students chanting "Move the Metro" at today's rally
Beverly Hills students chanting “Move the Metro” at today’s rally

The students assembled and shouted various chants including, “Move the Metro!” “Put it down!” and “Save our school!” to onlookers with cameras.

Beverly Hills High School students speaking at this morning's "walkout" rally
Beverly Hills High School students speaking at this morning’s “walkout” rally

For the official rally, all the students gathered to sit at a large lawn in the southwest part of the park. The rally opened with a high school student singing The Star-Spangled Banner. High school students spoke of the “threat to health” caused by Metro subway construction, which they characterized variously as “[to] constantly be terrified of an explosion,” and enduring “300 diesel trucks daily” at a staging area “15 feet from class.” One speaker allowed that the “Purple Line will be a positive thing” but that it needed to be re-routed for the “health and safety of students.”

When the speakers finished, staff directed them to return to staging areas for snacks and to line up for bus rides back to school.

After the “walkout” concluded students returned to school via BHUSD school buses

Today’s L.A. Times editorial, Seriously, Beverly Hills? Cut your Purple Line hysteria, already, puts it well:

…there’s nothing unusual about running subways lines under schools. It’s done in Washington, D.C., Portland, San Francisco and here in Los Angeles.

Will the Beverly Hills student protests really sway Trump anyway? Surely a savvy New Yorker would scoff at such theater. Schools, hospitals and apartment towers have existed for decades over New York City’s subway tunnels without catastrophe. Even the Trump International Hotel on Manhattan’s West Side sits safely atop two subway lines.

So, Beverly Hills, cut the hysteria. This “walkout” is a charade. It’s teaching students that evidence doesn’t matter and that fear is more potent than facts. There’s nothing educational about that.

See also additional coverage at Curbed (yesterday and today), Streetsblog L.A. Twitter, and Metro’s subway project facts at The Source.

  • Tulip Two Toes

    Oh I am sorry, I thought this was an Onion event. Wow.

  • cygp2p

    As an elementary school student, I probably would have taken the half-day from school too. Free snack, even!

    The parents that signed those permission slips and chaperoned this farce are the real ghouls.

  • This is fine as long as we can charge Beverly Hills residents double to ride the subway.

  • mx

    I spent some time reading the documents on the “Stop the Purple Threat” site. It reads to me that what they’re really worried about most is the idea that the subway could disrupt their plans for a new gym with a three story underground parking garage underneath. And as they argue, if they can’t build a new gym with a three story underground parking garage underneath, they can’t demolish the old gym, which means they can’t build a new track and Olympic-sized outdoor pool (none of which should be confused with the existing Swim Gym, which isn’t going anywhere). (I swear I did not make this up, see the last page of ) They go so far as to cite the noise level of a passing train as heard from the parking garage and insist that the noise-sensitivity of a gymnasium is the same as that of a music school.

    Just three speculative and unsubstantiated paragraphs of their complaint are devoted to the much-discussed risk from oil wells on campus (oil wells the school district authorized and profited from in the first place), but pages are devoted to the potential harm to the district’s underground parking plans. At no point do they concede that it’s not just possible, but the norm around the world to build a gym without three stories of underground parking.

    They spend a great deal of time stating their concerns about construction noise and dust from a nearby off-campus staging area, but no effort is made to explain how those problems would not be even worse when they excavate a massive pit on-campus for their parking garage. As far as I can tell, the district believes that off-campus construction will surely give the kids cancer, while the substantial amount of on-campus construction they have planned for the next few years is necessary and wonderful. Arguing that any construction noise will irreparably damage the learning environment is slightly more persuasive when you aren’t waving around a campus master plan that calls for a decade of major construction yourself.

  • Dak Ultimak

    Poor kids. They’re going to learn the term Astro-Turfing, and I’m not surprised a bunch of Beverly Hills kids are supporting this farce.

  • At 4 inches per minute, it will take the TBMs about 40 hours to pass under the BHHS property:

  • Claude

    If the ground under the high school is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode at the slightest jostle of the passing trains, why is the school still there?
    Aren’t they afraid that the first slight seismic tremor will blow the kiddies sky high?


Hating on Metro Part of the Curriculum at Beverly Hills High School

In August of 2012, Beverly Hills Highlights, the award-winning student newspaper at Beverly Hills High School, editorialized that the crusade run by the school district’s Board of Directors (BHUSD) against the subway was an expensive waste of time. After reading such a sober and well-thought-out argument, the school district leaders couldn’t help but reconsider their […]