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Students Schooled in Protest Tactics

Some Laguna Beach High School students are learning the ropes of protest organization in challenging the City Council’s vote earlier this month to pursue drafting of a social host ordinance (SHO), which would penalize hosts for providing minors alcoholic drinks at parties in private homes.

High school sophomore Andrew Landsiedel, the son of school board member William Landsiedel, led the charge by launching a “Fight the Social Host Ordinance” Facebook page, which boasts more than 600  members. He was joined in his crusade by seniors Macklin Thornton and Adam Redding-Kaufman, among others.

Andrew called for a lunchtime school protest on May 10 as well as during the May 15, City Council meeting. When they learned a draft of the proposed ordinance was not on the agenda, the youths still considered signaling their opposition during the public commentary segment, but ultimately canceled their planned rally to wait until the issue is debated in a public hearing.

At school, though, the protest urged students to dress up in suits and ties as an expression of opposition to the ordinance as well as their own maturity.

However, after being informed by school officials that he could be suspended if the protest became unruly, Andrew called off the protest the night before. A lively Facebook discussion ensued. Some students opted to go ahead and wear appropriate protest wear, admonishing each other to “be respectful” and refrain from provoking any incident that might lead to anyone’s suspension.

While Macklin did dress professionally, he said, “our protest was crippled; we canceled the speeches, and only a few came to school dressed professionally.” In hindsight, he said he realized that many students remain apathetic about local politics, “which is something that needs to changed. He noted Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that “the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people,” and added “If I could relive the day over again, I would have given my speech.”

Macklin, admitted to UC Berkley in the fall and president of the National Honor Society, said student opposition is not based on “the right to party” but the belief the ordinance may push teen drinking further into the shadows. They suggest more youth activities as one potential solution.

“We want to make it explicitly clear that we do not condone teen drinking. We see it as an inevitability,” said Andrew.

“Successful solutions are ones that entertain the fact that underage drinking is happening, and offer alternatives for it,” agreed Adam, captain of the LBHS surf team who will study economics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “I’m not saying that because there is nothing to do that I am threatening to go drink with my friends, but rather that if there were more activities focused on our age group, underage drinking, or at least the abuse of it, could decrease. The parties would still happen, but less people would be at them because there would be better things to do.”

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