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UPDATED: Valencia vice principal expels pit bulls

Lesson on prejudice goes awry

Posted: October 1, 2008 6:23 p.m.
Updated: December 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Villalobos dog trainer Louise Crane with Larry, a pit bull she adopted. Villalobos dog trainer Louise Crane with Larry, a pit bull she adopted.
Villalobos dog trainer Louise Crane with Larry, a pit bull she adopted.

Updated at 9:30 p.m.
Tia Torres just wanted to teach students at Valencia High School a lesson about prejudice using her trained pit bulls.

But Torres and her dogs were expelled after an assistant principal noticed the dogs in a classroom.
“The assistant principal came into the room and said the dogs looked menacing,” said Torres, who operates the Villalobos Rescue Center for pit bulls in Agua Dulce. “He left the room, the phone rang and the teacher said ‘They want you to leave.’”

Assistant Principal Vince Ferry acted appropriately when he told Social Studies teacher Marcy Calnan to have Torres and her pit bulls leave campus, according to Principal Paul Priesz.

“Any animals that come to school have to be approved by me, and we also have a speaker form that has to be filled out and that was not done,” Priesz said. “He asked them to leave because they did not have permission to be on campus.”

Calnan followed the visitor protocol that she always uses when she has guests in her classroom, she said.

“I did the formalities I was aware of, and I’ve had a lot of guests in my classroom including the Guide Dogs of America,” Calnan said. “Then later the principal told me that I needed to fill out a speaker form and I was not aware of that. I’ve never done that before.”

Ferry told Calnan the dogs needed to leave because they were a liability.

Calnan invited Torres and her dogs to visit because her students had selected Villalobos Rescue Center as the charity they would like to support this school year.

“Her basic message is not to judge a book by its cover — what it’s like to live in a diverse population and get along with people,” Calnan said. “She was discussing how the treatment of pit bulls is just another form of racism.”

After she and her dogs left Valencia High School, Torres went online and did some research about the school.

“I did some research and Valencia High School has had some issues with racism,” Torres said. “I thought, how ironic, being as how I went there to do a program on racism using my dogs, and here we were asked to leave because of the race of the dogs.”

The students were very upset that the dogs had to leave and had looked forward to the event for two weeks, Calnan said.

“I wanted this to be a positive experience for the kids and if the protocol had been clear to me I would have certainly followed it,” Calnan said. “But this was news to me.”

Priesz insists that the dogs were not asked to leave because they were pit bulls, but because their visit was not approved.

“The kind of animal it was is immaterial — they could have been two little Boston terrier puppies. They just hadn’t been approved to be on campus,” Priesz said.

To make it up to the students, and to bring awareness to the treatment of pit bulls, Torres will have an event at Villalobos Rescue Center on Saturday.

She wants to talk about what happened at Valencia High School and she is inviting some celebrity pit bull owners to attend also.

“Any kid can come, but the kids at Valencia High School who were supposed to have the program really want to come,” Torres said. “I think Valencia High just forgot the whole message.
“They threw us out because we had pit bulls — I’m positive of that.”


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