NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — LaGuardia High School is one of the most well-known high schools in the country, producing some of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry, but now many are speaking out against the current practices for getting in.
The 1980 film “Fame” is based on performing arts high school. LaGuardia is a specialized school for students with unique talents in the arts, one that requires an audition.
According to some students, alumni and parents, the current principal, Dr. Lisa Mars, has placed a bigger focus on middle school academic records and attendance when it comes to accepting students, and they say it’s keeping many gifted performers out.
“This is not Brooklyn Tech. This is not Stuyvesant. This is LaGuardia,” one protester said.
Parents and alumni held a silent protest outside the school Monday afternoon, just days after students staged a sit-in in the hallways.
“Some of us wake up at 4 in the morning to be here to get the best dance, acting, singing education that we possibly can,” a student told CBS2’s Alice Gainer.
More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition on change.org that was created years ago calling for the admissions criteria to be changed back and effective leadership.
Several teachers who did not want to appear on camera told Gainer that currently if a student gets anything under an 80 in any subject in middle school, they won’t be accepted into the high school, even if they score a 100 in the audition. In years past, they could negotiate to get really gifted performers in even if they had a C in a subject.
But the Department of Education says the current policy has been in place for over a decade, writing in part, “The school’s admission policy has long included audition and academic requirements.”
The Department of Education sent CBS2 a blurb from what they say is a 2008 high school directory that shows 80 or above requirement for grades.
Former teacher Judy Gray says when she taught there from the ’70s to the late ’90s, they cared about both grades and attendance, but “it didn’t overpower.”
Famous alumni, like Marlon Wayans, are outraged.
He tweeted in part, “Just because you suck at math it doesn’t mean you are not great at piano or singing or dance and/or acting.”
CBS2 has tried repeatedly to get in touch with the principal but has not heard back.
Gainer was told she couldn’t enter the school, but the administration knew she was there.
All of the students we spoke to are already enrolled in the school, so why were they protesting the admissions policy?
“The future of LaGuardia are the people who are accepted into the school,” one student said.
The Department of Education says the executive superintendent and superintendent met with students and parents Monday afternoon.
Protesters are hopeful their voices and those who can’t get into the school won’t be silenced any longer.
Teachers say they voted 119-15 “no confidence” in the principal.