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200 protest tardiness penalty

Roxbury school put in lockdown

Email|Print| Text size + By Megan Woolhouse
Globe Staff / March 1, 2008

Two hundred students at the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury protested a crackdown on tardiness yesterday by blocking doors and hallways and preventing hundreds of other students from getting to class on time.

School officials locked down the school after the protest, banning people from entering and exiting and keeping students in the same classroom the last two periods of the day.

"The headmaster put the school in safe mode," said Jonathan Palumbo, a spokesman for the Boston school system. "Any issue going on in the hallway needs to be addressed quickly."

The protest was unusual at the school, which typically has a well-behaved student body of 1,300 and boasts test scores in math that are among the top in the state. Officials said two fights had broken out at the school earlier this year. When students came back from the recent school vacation week, the school's headmaster, Joel Stembridge, found many more students loitering in the hallways and taking seven to eight minutes to get to class, instead of the typical four minutes, Palumbo said.

Stembridge rounded up many of the tardy students Tuesday, bringing them to the auditorium and requiring them to write "a reflection" on why they were late.

Yesterday the students responded. More than 200 blocked hallway and classroom doors, causing the entire student body to be late for class.

Palumbo backed Stembridge's actions. "Apparently they're upset with a reinforced policy," Palumbo said. "They did this, as opposed to taking a more healthy approach to voicing their displeasure."

Stembridge said no such protest took place in his four years at the school. "We have 1,300 wonderful students and 1,300 amazing things going on here," he said. "It's sad that this is what we're in the newspaper for."

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at mwoolhouse@globe.com.

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