ATWATER -- Thirteen Buhach Colony High School students were cited by police Thursday, after leaving class as part of a student-led walkout to protest a possible schedule change next year.
More than 100 students walked out of class during second period, expressing their dissatisfaction with the proposal to change the school's current block schedule, which consists of four classes a day, to a schedule with six classes a day.
According to the school's principal, Stacy McAfee, students gathered in the amphitheater. They were told to go back to class, and most returned, but 40 students refused and attempted to walk off campus.
That's when the police were called, she said.
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"There's a safety issue there because we didn't want students wandering the streets," she said.
When Atwater police officers arrived on campus, most of the students returned to class, but 13 refused to follow the officers' instructions.
Students were cited for an education violation of creating a disturbance during school hours, said Armando Echevarria, Atwater police detective. This is a misdemeanor. The probation department will determine punishment.
The students were being defiant. "Nothing escalated to an assault," he said. "We assisted in rounding up the students."
The students may also face disciplinary actions from the school, he said.
On Wednesday, students collected more than 750 signatures from classmates who were upset over the future change.
Joshua Lackie, an 11th grade student, said he doesn't want his schedule to change because he likes to take more classes in a year and it lets him get required classes out of the way.
For instance, he can take English one semester and that counts for taking a year of English.
According to Sheila Whitley, California Teachers Association president for the Merced Union High School District, the reason behind the change is that the school had the lowest Academic Performance Index in the district, 735, and the school failed to make its federal academic benchmarks for certain subgroups last year.
Part of the issue with the school's test scores is that the tests occur in spring, so if a student took math in the fall, he might not retain that knowledge for standardized tests later in the school year.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.