Billions served— minus 2,500
A Sacramento McDonald’s institutes a no-student policy, and kids aren’t loving it
To borrow a line from Pink Floyd, all in all, they’re just another brick in the wall—or, in this case, through the window. The McDonald’s on Freeport Boulevard is drawing a line in the sand against what it feels are unruly students from neighboring C.K. McClatchy High School.
After a May 20 incident in which a student threw a brick through the restaurant’s window, owner Marc Newman instituted a no-service policy for the school’s students between 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless the youth are accompanied by an adult. ID checks became mandatory, and kids from McClatchy no longer are allowed to frequent the fast-food outlet before and after school.
Newman declined to comment for this story, but one McDonald’s employee spoke to SN&R, along with three other Freeport Boulevard business owners who took different sides on an issue that offers no easy solution.
“They’ve had more problems after school; the kids were out, and it was really rowdy,” said 17-year-old McClatchy student Brandi Cooper. With as many as 20 McClatchy students in line, the environment would become rowdy. Tensions grew as McDonald’s employees regularly evicted patrons who preferred to hang out but not buy anything. “If a friend was with me and not eating, they would ask the kid to leave who wasn’t eating,” explained Cooper. “Kids would talk back and be rude.”
The actual window-breaking incident resulted from a dispute over a 99-cent breakfast special that—ironically enough—was available only to students. Refusing to show the McDonald’s cashier his ID, a male student from McClatchy left the restaurant, claiming he’d been disrespected, and returned with a brick, said junior Labatiste Kennedy. “Some McClatchy students are bad apples,” said the 16-year-old. “It messes it up for all the other students.”
“That was enough,” said one McDonald’s employee. “We’d already had the window broken before, when a kid put his fist through it.”
The Freeport Boulevard McDonald’s is not the only local business worried about area security problems that continue to make headlines. At the beginning of the school year, on September 30, 2003, McClatchy student Robert Treadway, 15, was gunned down by a fellow classmate in front of the nearby Subway restaurant on Freeport Boulevard. Treadway, who school sources say was on suspension for gang activities, intervened in a fight with several boys and subsequently was gunned down.
Two other former McClatchy students were murdered in March, killed hours apart in unrelated incidents. Donald Monroe, 18, had been expelled and was killed in a drive-by shooting. Eduardo Estrella, 17, had dropped out and was shot while robbing a South Sacramento business. Both reportedly were suspected of having gang ties.
During the 2003-2004 school year, Sacramento police say they identified 62 new gang members at the school, based on criteria including gang-related tattoos, clothing and graffiti.
McClatchy Vice Principal Rod Hollander noted that businesses are free to set their own policies. “McDonald’s chose to do this on their own. We had no input whatsoever. [Newman] got a window broken, and he has a right to do whatever he wants,” said Hollander. “On the other hand, I hate to see it happen, but it’s not the first incident there. My guess is he feels they’re driving away the adult population who eat there.” Most McClatchy kids are well-behaved, Hollander was quick to add.
“I’d say there’s a problem every day, [and] if the police aren’t there, there’s a 100-percent guaranteed problem,” said another Freeport proprietor, who asked not to be identified. “There are two distinct groups: the kids who respect authority and understand when you explain to them why they can’t stand in your parking lot, and then there’s the kids who tell you to get fucked. It was never this way. We’ve co-existed peacefully here for 20 years until now. This last academic year, starting with summer school, it just got horrible. They can linger around in groups of up to 40 kids. They just hang out, playing craps and smoking pot. We’ll tell them to leave, and we’re told to fuck off. Then we call the police.”
Another anonymous proprietor claimed that some 20 customers have called in recent months and asked if it’s safe to come to Freeport. “You just hear comments from people. Those are not harmless-looking kids. They have their whole getup and demeanor, and it’s scary for people who come from suburbia,” he said. “Sometimes, they’re playing craps in the parking lot. They have a lookout, the cops come, and everybody scatters. You wonder how it affects your business.”
But only McDonald’s has gone so far as to institute and enforce a no-McClatchy-student policy. “You know, it’s just one of those things,” said Dale Patton, Round Table Pizza’s vice president of operations, of the brick incident. “We don’t really make rules like that. We welcome them as customers, and they frequent our business every day. They come in and play video games, order pizza and drinks. The only problem I’ve ever had in that area is parking. Some kids come in at the morning and park in my back parking lot and leave their car there during the day. With any high school, you’ll have good kids and bad kids.”
Hollander said he hopes McClatchy students will be given a second chance at the McDonald’s come September. But McClatchy junior Leticia Morris has found her own workaround to a policy she calls “ludicrous.” She said she waits outside the restaurant until an adult enters and then refers gate-keeping McDonald’s employees to the adult next to her in line.
“I found a loophole. The policy doesn’t say you have to be with your parent, but ‘a parent,'” said Morris. “I go there every day, and [then] they punish me because of rambunctious kids who never buy anything. I don’t understand why they don’t just hire a security guard.”
“A lot of us were upset about it," said Cooper. "But some understood, you know, where they were coming from. That’s vandalism, and someone from our school caused it. When you look at it, they’re losing a lot of business by us not eating there."