Students at Boyle Heights high school walk out in protest of principal's 'unexplained' removal

Leo Stallworth Image
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Boyle Heights students protest unexplained removal of school principal
Dozens of students at a Boyle Heights high school walked out of class to protest the unexplained removal of their longtime principal.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Dozens of high school students in Boyle Heights walked out of class Tuesday to protest the removal of their principal.

AIR7 HD was over the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School campus, where students were sitting on the ground outside. Many of them held signs reading "Free Jefe" and chanted "Free Bautista."

Students say their principal, Mauro Bautista, has been gone from the campus for about a month, with no explanation from Los Angeles Unified School District.

They want him to be reinstated and allowed to attend graduation for the school's class of 2024. They are also protesting what they call a lack of information from the district.

"We want to know what happened," said student Thomas Rodriguez. "Mainly we want Bautista back. But we want transparency with LAUSD. They haven't been handling the situation well at all."

It's not clear why the principal was removed. A letter signed by school employees also demands clarity on the situation.

LAUSD issued a statement:

"The health and safety of our students and our staff remains my top priority. On April 29 and May 13, we sent a message about the absence of the principal. Per District policy, and out of respect for our employees, personnel matters remain confidential. District Operations and Region East leadership will continue to provide support to ensure Mendez High School continues to fulfill its mission of education in the community. Further, we would like to reassure you that Mendez High School and the District will continue to ensure the safety of students and staff at our schools. We have provided and will continue to provide updates to our students, employees and families about this matter as appropriate."

A longtime Boyle Heights resident, Bautista was the school's first assistant principal when it opened in 2009 and became principal in 2011.

"He gave us multiple opportunities to be a better us," said student Haidee Deras. "Doesn't judge us, doesn't ignore us. He goes around cleaning up our trash when he doesn't have to because he's our principal."