In response to what Superintendent John Perales calls "an uptick in gang activity in and between Gilroy and Hollister," San Benito High School on Monday began limiting where students can congregate on the more than 2,800-student campus.
Students will not be allowed to hang out in front of the administration building on Monterey Street or along Nash Road before school or at break and lunch. Red lines recently painted on the pavement delineate the areas off limits to students.
"Access to our students from these areas and streets is too easy and I feel we must make this decision with our students' safety in mind," he said in a statement sent to parents and posted on his Facebook page. Perales said that two weeks ago, there was an incident involving a 15-year-old Hollister teen and a Gilroy teen involving a gang-related stabbing in Gilroy. "This incident and the exposure of our students to the public (folks walking by and easily accessing our campus) via Monterey Street and Nash Road have led me to work with Principal Dearden to move our students to more secure locations. Having 600-800 students exposed to Monterey Street does not provide a safe environment for our students. God forbid, that a drive-by shooting take place – this could cost many of our students and staff their lives. While the red line is just that, it reminds students where they can and cannot be. I truly believe that by moving our students to the interior of campus, they will be much more protected and better supervised."
Principal Todd Dearden prepared a letter outlining the decision and the school sent a recorded message to parents' homes to inform them of the decision and change in practice.
The new policy allows students to gather in one of four areas when class is not in session:
– The main campus quad (100's through 200's)
– The 300's quad (349-396)
– The Industrial Arts plaza (300-342)
– The 400 quad (450-482)
Students may only leave one of the designated areas for the purpose of traveling to another, officials said.
In a statement announcing the policy change, Dearden said, "Students have a tendency to claim an area and sit in the same place every day. We do not wish to disrupt their routines but we feel that this is a safety concern that needs to be addressed. This change will require additional seating within the designated areas. We will be ordering new tables to provide ample seating for all students."