A high school principal in Pittsburg was at the center of school board meeting Wednesday night, nearly a week after a student protest at his school turned violent at a neighboring school.
Antioch police Chief Allan Cantando attended meetings of the Pittsburg and Antioch school boards after his officers arrested three Pittsburg High students last Thursday on the campus of Antioch High School. He thanked the Antioch board for its swift response but also sent a message to the Pittsburg board that it should take a hard look at its policies to ensure the incident isn't repeated.
"My goal there was to make the board understand that this was more than a few students, and it was not a peaceful protest," Cantando said.
The arrests occurred after several hundred Pittsburg students walked off campus in protest of President-elect Donald Trump and marched to Antioch High. Principal Todd Whitmire marched with the students, and Cantando wants to know whether Whitmire encouraged the students to leave the campus.
Pittsburg High Principal Under Fire After Protest Turns Violent
"Fourteen officers were tied up for almost two hours," Cantando said.
Cantando believes Whitmire is partially to blame for the mayhem.
"I think that empowers some of these kids to do this because, after all, we're marching in this an anti-Trump rally with our principal," the chief said.
Cellphone video shows Pittsburg High students forcing their way onto the Antioch High campus. When they arrived, the student protesters began jumping fences and pushing past school administrators.
"I feel like the protest got too out of hand," Antioch student Star James said.
"One of our officers got assaulted," Cantando said. "Kids were knocking over garbage cans, children were trying to get into Antioch High School and actually did."
Three Pittsburg students ranging in age from 13 to 16 were arrested.
Whitmire argued he did not condone the protest and only left campus to try to keep kids safe. And he said he’d do it again.
"I think we do have an obligation to ensure that those students as a whole are safe," he said. "The reality is we could not physically stop 200 students. Clearly our desire was for them to not leave campus."
Whitmire says several dozen Pittsburg students were suspended for failing to go back to campus.
The chief was scheduled to speak before the board, hoping to come up with a concrete procedure to follow if and when kids walk out again.
NBC Bay Area's Ian Cull contributed to this report.