What started as a water balloon fight at Sonoma Valley High School turned into a protest – a protest over the injustice of ending school lunch early.
It all started during the high school’s lunch period, when several students started throwing water balloons at one another, a soggy-but-harmless bit of shenanigans – that is until the balloon supply dried up and the fracas devolved into a food fight.
“When it’s just a couple balloons, that’s not so bad,” said Loyal Carlon, director of human resources for the Sonoma Valley Unified School District. “But after that, they started throwing food as well, and that’s when the principal decided she needed to stop it.”
Principal Kathleen Hawing rang the bell to end lunch early, sending students back to their classrooms. But, according to Carlon, a core of students decided to instead assemble in the quad and protest the lunchtime reduction.
And then at some point, said Carlon, faculty reported “an odor of marijuana” and called the police.
Sgt. Orlando Rodriguez with the Sonoma Police Department said when he and five deputies arrived, they found about 800 students in the courtyard. He said the deputies stepped back to watch until things calmed down.
“We told the teachers to start sending them back to their classes,” he said.
As the students moved around the campus, their numbers thinned. At one point, somebody pulled a fire alarm but the word went out quickly that it was a false alarm.
Carlon added the school never entered into a lockdown state during the incident.
After the dust and crumbs settled, campus custodians conducted a sweep across campus and reported no major damage. Carlon said that, besides water balloon husks, the students didn’t leave too much of a mess.
Sonoma Valley High School plans to pursue disciplinary action against the students responsible for the protest, the marijuana odor and the fire alarm. “It’s too early to decide what exactly we’re going to do, but once we contacted all the families and come up with a plan next week, we’ll expect that core group of kids might have to rethink their actions,” Carlon said.