A Civics Lesson Gone Horribly Wrong

By Traci Grant
|  Monday, Jan 18, 2010  |  Updated 8:17 AM PDT
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A Civics Lesson Gone Horribly Wrong

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Eighteen students from Companeros del Barrio preschool in San Francisco’s Mission District traveled to City Hall Tuesday to learn about how citizens can participate in government.

But the school’s principal said the message her three- and four-year-old students walked away with was exactly the opposite.

Principal Maria Cristina Gutierrez said she told the deputies what the children learned was never to trust law enforcement.

The students witnessed San Francisco’s Sheriff’s Deputies physically drag Gutierrez out of the Board of Supervisor’s chambers.

Her offense was attempting to pass along a poster to Supervisor David Campos.  The students had made it themselves.

"I was in shock," said Gutierrez. "There was no need to do this. They affected the children. They cannot get away with this. We are not criminals."

The children made the poster which was covered with stickers of frowning faces and messages, to help urge the supervisors save their parents’ jobs.  Gutierrez said several of the children’s parents work for Muni cleaning buses and are worried about looming budget cuts.

Gutierrez had hoped to make a speech during the public comment section of the meeting but, after waiting about an hour, she decided the children should go home. She said she folded the poster and attempted to hand it to Campos when two deputies grabbed her by the arms and forcibly ejected her from the chambers.

Gutierrez said as she was being dragged away she yelled "Supervisor Campos, help. Please."  She says once in the hallway , two more deputies jumped in and manhandled her.

The children watched the whole thing, crying and begging the deputies not to take their principal to jail. Campos called for a recess when the ruckus began and walked outside to find out what was happening.

Campos said the entire incident was disturbing and he has demanded that the Sheriff’s Department conduct an investigation of what happened and whether it was necessary for Gutierrez to be treated that way. He said despite the no-sign rule, it isn’t unusual for people to pass along materials to him during the meeting. Campos said at no point did he feel like his safety was in jeopardy.

"Quite frankly, something like [the poster] is often seen as a nice gesture," Campos said. "In this case a group of three- and four-year-olds giving me that would have been something nice that happened."

"It is a shame. I don’t want to prejudge what happened, but it is a shame something like that had to happen in front of these kids."
 

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