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.

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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.

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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.

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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 […]