MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA) — A class of local high school seniors has sparked outrage after staging a graduation march in Manhattan Beach in violation of the county’s public health order.
The march was meant to be a celebration with photos showing hundreds of Mira Costa High School students gathered in caps and gowns.
“I presented them to Manhattan Beach, and they flipped their tassels and tossed their caps,” Deborah Hofreiter, retiring Mira Costa Vice Principal, said.
But the event, meant to mark the end of a very different school year, has since gathered national attention.
“We didn’t know that they were not going to respect the COVID directions,” Hofreiter said. “But, you know, they’re kids.”
The parent- and student-organized walk that started at Hermosa Pier and ended at Manhattan Beach followed the school-approved drive-up graduation ceremony.
“The kids were instructed to stay 6 feet apart and wear masks,” Hofreiter said. “They’re 18, they haven’t seen their friends in three months, so they did none of that.”
It was also said by users on social media that the group had pretended to be a Black Lives Matter march in an effort to circumvent health orders, but photos of the event do not support that claim.
“They were in no way pretending to be anything other than the class of 2020,” Hofreiter said.
Organization guru Erin Condren, whose four children were part of the class of graduating seniors, helped organize the event. She took to Instagram to apologize for the event that some said was racially insensitive.
View this post on Instagram
I love the company that I founded. I love what it has meant to our customers and the community of people who use and love our products. Mostly, I love the people who work there. I know how committed they are to helping people and doing good. It was hard to read the recent statement from our CEO. It was hard to read, but it was true. My decisions and my words related to my children’s recent graduation event were careless and dangerous. While our intention was to recognize graduates who have had much of their senior year taken away by COVID, I fully realize the event I planned with some other parents was a mistake. And while there are a number of inaccuracies in the media coverage of this event, it was still a mistake. I also recognize now that there is no way 600 Black students would have been allowed to march and celebrate in the same way without masks during a pandemic. That is one more example of the white privilege that has been such an unseen part of my life. The fact that I couldn’t see it before scares me. Now I see it and I am sorry. I am sorry I was oblivious to realities that so many Black Americans have been living with for so long. I want to figure out how I can be a part of the change that is needed in this country. That begins today and that is why I am going to take a leave of absence from the company. The team there is creative, passionate, diverse and amazing and I don’t want to distract from the great work they are doing. So, over the next several months, I am going to listen, think, examine, reflect, and serve however I can. I will keep you updated on my journey. Thank you to my team, our customers and community for listening and teaching me.
And other students who participated were sad that the celebration meant to honor their achievement was tarnished by controversy.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan Beach Police Department said it was aware that a large gathering took place in violation of the county’s health order. However, police officials said they had no plans to cite anyone from the event or any other march, walk or gathering that has taken place in recent weeks.