A petition calls for the recall of the president of the students of Pacific Grove High School over hate messages posted on social media. | New
Social media images provided to Weekly disturb: a white teenager holding a Confederate flag with a replica of a firearm with an orange tip in one photo, and brandishing a fake firearm in another. In one video, the teenager uses the N word in a classroom at Pacific Grove High School.
The video was taken and posted by another student in 2019, when the teenager was 15 years old. The photos are selfies taken and posted about a year ago. They were taken down shortly after, but were in place long enough that other students at PGHS could duplicate them and report them to school officials.
The teenager was identified online as Anthony Biondi, senior PGHS president and student body associate, in a change.org petition launched on Saturday August 7 by another student, two days after the start of the school year. Changer.org removed Biondi’s name from the petition on August 9. (The Weekly appoints him because he successfully ran for an elected position at PGHS and that position is in question.)
In the petition, Alexandra Ulwelling, junior, calls on school officials to remove Biondi from the leadership position of the ASB to which he was elected in May. As of August 11, there were over 350 signatures. Ulwelling and her mother, Claudia Ulwelling, say they have received numerous calls and texts of support since the petition was published four days ago. “There are a lot of people angry about this,” says Claudia.
PGHS director Lito Garcia said the decision whether or not to remove Biondi will rest with the associated student body government. The statutes do not specify how a cadet is recalled, but stipulate that he can be immediately dismissed for “actions unworthy of an ASB officer”. The statutes also state that an agent can be dismissed after three offenses. The first offense gives rise to a warning by the activity director of the school, the second justifies a meeting with the director and the director or the assistant director, the third offense will result in dismissal.
Garcia declined to comment on the school’s disciplinary action with Biondi, citing student confidentiality. The administration became aware of the photos after their publication in 2020; the video was revealed at the end of May, after Biondi’s election.
“When this was brought to my attention at the end of last school year, we responded appropriately,” Garcia said. “We worked with the student and his family to resolve the issue.”
the Weekly obtained an email that Garcia sent to parents at PGHS on May 28 describing the administration’s response to the video and photos: the administrators met with Biondi’s parents and responded to their child’s needs; “Collaboration with the Pacific Grove Police Department” (it is not known whether there have been any charges laid); initiated “appropriate services” for the student; and followed the disciplinary procedures outlined in the policies of the Pacific Grove Unified School Board.
Biondi’s parents Dan and Johanna Biondi say they have worked with professionals, including family counseling, since the incident with the photos last year. Alone, they asked their son to perform community service hours.
“First of all, as a family, we are deeply sad about this,” said Dan Biondi. They apologize for the content and say their son “takes full responsibility for what happened”. They also feel that their son has made mistakes and learned from them. “From Anthony’s point of view, these were mistakes. There was no intention, ”Dan says. “He was, and is, a child.
Parents say their son has strived to become a better and more mature person, which includes attending the leadership class at PGHS and applying for a position with ASB.
That the school allows Biondi to participate in a leadership position is what motivated Ulwelling to start the petition. It also appeared to him and others that PGHS officials were taking little action to discipline Biondi.
“A lot of people, including myself, and especially people of color and people with disabilities, won’t feel comfortable having him in a managerial position,” Ulwelling said. Besides being president, Biondi is considered one of the best college players on the PGHS football team and seen as popular, which makes him an influential person with other students, she says.
According to the ASB statutes, part of the president’s responsibility is to create a welcoming atmosphere on campus. “We strive to create a welcoming, dynamic and safe environment in which all students feel included, as well as to give a voice to the students of the school in an atmosphere of support and motivation”, states the mission statement of the ASB. “We aim to establish a pride of Breaker priority that will pave the way for generations to come.”
In his petition, Ulwelling points out that California’s education code prohibits “hate violence,” which includes expression of hostility based on race, sex, religion, disability, nationality and gender. sexual orientation. According to the PGHS Student Handbook, the state code states that offending students will face suspension and interaction with the police. It also says “eviction recommended”.
For Ulwelling, Biondi did not face the consequences listed in the code and put the responsibility of his dismissal on the adult directors.
While Garcia says a potential recall belongs to student leaders, the Weekly asked what administrators and teachers were doing to educate students on the issues of hate speech and symbols. Garcia says there is “continuing education with students on these topics.”
Ulwelling, 16, is an athlete herself, swims in a club team and is active with the Diversifying Our Narrative PGUSD group. As a chapter of the national movement, the goal of the student-led group is to promote justice for underserved and under-represented groups, including people of color and LGBTQ people. Ulwelling says teachers have included more diverse texts since the group’s activities.