‘Dangerous Minds’ and Hollywood lies

Grace Yi, Staff Writer

Produced in 1995, Carlmont was portrayed in the movie “Dangerous Minds”, with a negative attitude; however, many changes and enhancements have changed the perspective and outlook of the school.

“The movie was not like the situation on campus. There was a lot of liberties taken on Carlmont that wasn’t like it was portrayed. The movie made Carlmont look like a roughneck school, the movie was nothing like Carlmont was,” stated varsity softball coach and occasional substitute teacher of Carlmont, Jim Liggett.

“Dangerous Minds” originated from an autobiography written by LouAnne Johnson called My Posse Don’t Do Homework. This movie was distributed by Walt Disney Studios Distribution on Aug. 11, 1995. “Dangerous Minds” was rated R, and in one hour and 39 minutes, it depicted Carlmont as a rough school with tough students.

Liggett disagrees that Carlmont was once a lacking school. He has been working at Carlmont since 1967, 28 years before the movie was introduced to the public. He has worked with many of the past teachers including Johnson throughout and during her short term as a teacher.

Carolyn Wade, a current History and English teacher said, “[The] Carlmont that was depicted was nothing like it. [There was a] lot of asphalt, less greenery, and graffiti. The school had always been careful in being clear, clean, and taking care of the landscape.”

Melanie Fuentes, secretary of Principal Raul Zamora agreed with Liggett and Wade and noted that the movie had “hollywood-ized” Carlmont and did not accurately portray Carlmont High School in the 1990s.

In the movie, an ex-marine named LouAnne Johnson took a job teaching an Academy class, mostly made up of African American and Hispanic teenagers from East Palo Alto at Carlmont High School in Belmont, CA. However, the movie was not filmed at Carlmont, but at Burlingame High School, San Mateo High School, Washington Middle School and in the cities of Santa Cruz and Pasadena.

Before the movie was filmed, Michelle Pfeiffer, who played the lead role as Johnson, toured Carlmont High School with the movie productions staff.

A few teachers such as Wade and current math teacher Gayle McGinnis were able to see and meet her.

Pfeiffer won many awards such as the Blockbuster Entertainment Award where she  was awarded as Favorite Actress in 1996, a year after the production of the movie. In the same year she was nominated as the Most Desirable Female by MTV Movies Award.

MTV Movie awards also prized the movie with the Best Movie Song. The songs was called “Gangsta Paradise,” Coolio’s song which was allegedly rumored to be based on how Carlmont was a deficient school many years ago.

“Dangerous Minds”  became a box office success with a total of $84,916,680, and for a short period was a television series that ran from Sept. 1996 to Mar. 1997 aired on ABC network with Annie Potts as the lead role for Johnson.

Despite the segregation riots and discrimination around the Carlmont neighborhood in the 1970s, some believed that Carlmont had improved significantly since the time of the “roughneck” students who attended Carlmont high school. For example, Carlmont recently finished building the new football field and has beautified much of the campus.

“Enrollment was way low, I think it was 1,198 [students]. The enrollment kept increasing and with all the shadowing programs…[it] brought back the community.” said Fuentes.

Furthermore, some have noted that the administration have imputed much effort to change the perception of the Carlmont community over the last decade.

“[Now] the facility has a much different feel, more attractive and more welcoming. [There are] much more AP and Advanced classes offered now. [There is] less negative behavior,” commented McGinnis.

Similarly, Wade added, “I think Carlmont has been successful in building tolerance to ethnicity and embracing it- I think that’s one of the beauties of the campus.”

Liggett concluded that “Carlmont always had really good students, [but] back then had a share of bad ones.”

Carlmont will continue to strive to become an even better school in the years to come.