Noe Valley Voice June 2000

Letters to the Editor

Problems Extend Beyond School Walls


I am stunned by the blasé response to the attempted teacher poisoning at James Lick Middle School reported in your last issue ["James Lick School Takes Another Hit," May 2000 Voice].

With the exception of two parents who suggested "zero tolerance" of student "pranks" in the future, everyone who was quoted shrugged off the crime as an "isolated incident" or an "aberration" or a "lack of understanding of substances." The tired standby of blaming it on a movie (or TV or rock music) was even trotted out.

More incredible, and worrisome, was that the school's principal, Mr. Eddings, diverted attention from the seriousness of the situation by offering unsubstantiated statistics such as "98 percent of our kids are doing what's right 99 percent of the time." The staff of Columbine High probably comforted themselves with such pabulum, too, before real tragedy struck.

Well, as a longtime Noe Valley resident who lives within view of James Lick's front door, and who regularly rides the 24-Divisadero bus when James Lick students are going to school and returning home, I've got news for Mr. Eddings and his staff: My personal observations reveal that around 50 percent of your students are foul-mouthed juvenile delinquents. (I admit that my statistics are about as scientifically verifiable as Mr. Eddings'.)

What to do? Since the students are once again concerned about their image in the neighborhood, and since the school administrators seem content to brush this incident under the rug and "move on," here's a simple list of things the students can do to improve their standing in Noe Valley:

1. Stop defacing/damaging public and private property on your way to and from school.

2. Stop urinating in public.

3. Challenge yourself to put together at least one complete sentence every day without using the f-, m-f-, or n-word.

4. Stop turning the 24-Divisadero bus into a hell-on-wheels for other riders.

5. Do not ask for donations for supplies or overseas trips until you start acting like responsible citizens.

A final note to Mr. Eddings: I don't think a week has gone by in the past year without a police cruiser, with lights flashing, double-parked in front of James Lick. When this stops, I'll be more inclined to accept your statistics. In the meantime, I suggest you focus hard on the 2 percent of students who aren't doing what's right.

Charles Handy

Via email

Sensitive Reporting About
James Lick


James Lick makes the front page again! First the Chronicle and now the Voice. Wow! This school gets a lot of media attention. It must have something special. Could it be the school's hardworking, dedicated teachers and administrators, or its diverse and eclectic student body? No, it's the shoplifting and poisoning events that draw James Lick into the limelight. My, my, that's a positive educational outlook. Sadly, that's what hooks readers.

But these incidents are not confined to James Lick. Unfortunate situations are happening in all our public and private schools. If you think not, you've got your head in the sand.

Still, our adolescents need to hear and read some encouraging, uplifting news about them! Good things are happening at James Lick.

My thanks go to Heidi Anderson for her respectful reporting. She sensitively handled the students' insights and feelings about what happened to all of them and what they learned from this serious situation. And isn't that what it's all about -- learning?

G. Henderson

Via email

Zero Tolerance for Lack of Leadership


This is in response to your recent article on James Lick Middle School.

Countless times, I have had students attempt to kick my dog, throw objects at us, and shout various obscenities while I was walking down the street. I've tried discussing this with teachers, as well as with the assistant principal. Rather than accepting their role as mentors and telling the students that violence and abuse are not acceptable in any form -- the school staff reprimanded me for owning a dog and living in the neighborhood. The assistant principal stated that "in defense of the kids, many of them, as well as our P.E. teacher, have complained about stepping in dog feces, so I can understand why they're acting out." When I asked how that could possibly provide a rationale for the students' acting out with verbal and physical assaults, I was told that that was the rationale and that I should walk my dog elsewhere.

Being a responsible pet owner and taxpayer, who pays to live in Noe Valley and who provides money to support our children's education, I am a bit perplexed by this. Perhaps the assistant principal would provide a rationale for the debris and broken glass I see all over the sidewalk and grounds of the school. Should we apply her reasoning to the kids who litter too?

At the public school I went to, the teachers not only spoke of zero tolerance, they actually enforced it. Funny, it seemed to work, too; we never had a case of teachers being poisoned, etc. Oh, we did have one similarity to James Lick: we had a shortage of money for education. However, the teachers still managed to provide discipline and leadership. And guess what? The community fully embraced and respected the school in return.

We need to look into the real underlying reason the school has experienced behavioral problems. Zero tolerance? I have yet to see that in action. I think we, as a community, need to have zero tolerance for the lack of leadership teachers are providing their students.

I'm sure there are outstanding teachers within James Lick and I'm hoping that they will someday make up the majority. I look forward to the day when we can be proud of James Lick being part of our community and when the neighbors will no longer prefer to send their children to schools outside the neighborhood.

Mary Rutherford

Via email

Parking Rage on Alvarado


I have lived in Noe Valley for four years, and have no off-street parking. The parking situation has gotten worse and worse, and now it seems as though there are vigilante groups about.

On Friday, May 5, I parked on Alvarado Street in a somewhat generous space between two driveways. I got out of the car, examined the space behind me, and thought that there was no room for another car in back of me. There was a huge Sportster in the driveway in front of me, so I allowed for about a foot of space between my car and their driveway.

On Saturday morning, when I got to my car, I found a Federal Priority Mail address sticker pasted to my window, completely blocking my view. I had to go buy a scraper to scrape it off in order to drive. I also found a flyer from the "Alvarado Community Group" asking me to park with more sensitivity to space for others.

The flyer I don't mind, but the sticker is vandalism, and a federal offense. I am turning over the sticker to the Post Office. What's next? Slashed tires?

We have an awful parking situation in our neighborhood. People who work on 24th Street park in our neighborhood. When the Noe Valley Ministry has an event, forget parking within five blocks of Sanchez. We need residential parking stickers, not vigilante groups who vandalize cars.

Linda Saytes

Noe Street

Clarification of Shelter Letter


In my letter to the editor, which you posted in the May issue of the Noe Valley Voice, I wrote that "Smear tactics are an easy, undemocratic way to quiet the voice of reason...."

I feel that you were guilty of that by putting the word "gay" before shelter in the first line -- making it seem that the fact that the shelter was for gay youth mattered to me. In fact, it does not. I only care that the budget is way out of line for the number of people served, or, looking at it from a different point of view, the clientele are not receiving anywhere near the services that they should for the money.

I also object to the heading stating that the money could be better spent elsewhere. That, also, is not the point. I do not feel that there are more deserving homeless (though there are homeless at greater risk -- elderly or children), just that more people should be taken care of for that amount of money. My point was that I believe the money is being funneled to the caregivers, not the homeless.

Rachel Callaghan

Via email

More Broken Glass on Clipper Street


I have just returned from spending one hour and 40 minutes on Clipper Street in front of my house helping to deal with a car accident. At approximately 8:40 p.m. (on May 8), my partner and I heard a loud bang, followed by a car horn. As he dialed 911, I went out to see if I could help.

I saw my neighbor across the street on her phone, also calling 911. In the ensuing minutes, as 30 to 40 other people from the neighborhood joined us outside, and as those involved in the crash were taken out of the street and the one car remaining in the street pushed to the side, traffic continued to pour down Clipper, speeding through broken glass and car parts. The fact that there were scores of people lining the sidewalk, and that the street was littered with debris from an accident, did nothing to slow the multitude of cars racing down the street.

In the one hour (yes, one full hour) that we waited for the police to arrive, we were witness to the kind of behavior that goes on day and night along our 500 block of Clipper Street. No one was surprised that there had been an accident. For years, we have been begging for enforcement of the existing 25-mph speed limit. We've also asked for installation of speed bumps, and a rerouting of through-traffic away from this narrow residential street.

It is truly pathetic that the powers that be in the City and County of San Francisco care so little for the safety and well-being of their citizens that they allow such dangerous conditions to go unchecked.

I have written numerous letters to Mayor Brown, Supervisor Leno, and others, but still nothing has been done. I wonder how many people have to be killed or injured before the danger that is Clipper Street finally receives some attention from City Hall.

Bruce Clark

Still alive (for the moment)

Via email

Noe Valley Voice Mail

The Voice welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or send email to Please include your name, address, and phone number. Letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.)