Waves of student protests send signals of hope and organizing

East Los Angeles high school students rally. Credit: Cynthia Vieyra

By David Sheridan

In the days and weeks since the election, high school and college students have staged walk-outs. From Phoenix to Boston, Des Moines to D.C., these protests have been student-led and demonstrated the energy and idealism of youth who are denouncing the racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric unleashed in the election.

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Talk with any student who walked out, and you are likely to hear that it was “empowering.” But you will also hear deep disappointment with how the media portrayed them as “sore losers” and “Trump bashers.”

Says one East L.A. high school student: “The day after the election, we saw all of the sad faces at school—people were crying in the hallways. We walked out to show that we are not afraid—we are facing fear by standing up for what we believe in. It’s our way of saying to our community you can count on us.”

Historian Jeanne Theoharis, author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, reminds us that students have often been at the forefront of our major civil rights movements.

Some of the biggest walk-outs occurred in East L.A., where almost every student who is documented knows students and families who are undocumented and threatened with deportation. After the walk-out, students at Humanitas Academy of Art & Technology came to the educators who had supported them and said, “We want to do more.” Together, they hatched a plan. They will hold a “Voice Fest” to which all students, educators and the community are invited. There will be resources for families and the opportunity for everyone to talk about what to do next; there will also be food and music. And the students make it abundantly clear that the “Voice Fest” is only their first step in their community building efforts.

“I am so inspired by my students,” say Adriana Yugovich, Media Arts Teacher at Humanitas Academy of Art and Technology. In San Francisco, Social Studies teacher Fakhra Shah at Mission High School echoes that sentiment. “My students are asking, “What do we do next in the fight for social justice? For them, the walk-out was just the beginning.”

In Washington, D.C. and its suburbs, students from a number of schools walked out. “The feeling was great—seeing students marching and chanting,” says 17-year-old Maria Salmeron. And 16-year-old Gaby Martinez adds: “We want our lives to be taken seriously. Being an activist is important if you want to see change—and I do!”

Reader Comments

  1. College students may do what they please as they are adults. This is NOT legal for minors to just walk out of school, not it alright in any sense of the word. The student do NOT make the rules and it is time to start letting them know this as their “rights” have gotten completely out of control. Plus ILLEGAL aliens are breaking the law and I hope the deportations start the moment Trump is sworn in!

    1. The ‘deportations’ ought to start with all the actors, Hollywood people. etc who said they would leave the country if Trump got elected. If each one of those losers took a car full of illegal aliens with them, the issue would be resolved quickly. And then there would be less students, same money, more money for each and every legal citizen student.

  2. Walking out of classes would seem to be a useless exercise. Exactly what is the purpose? What does walking out of school accomplish?

    1. We, when I was a student, had walkouts in Los Angeles in 1971 to protest racism that existed in our schools, and at my school we had the police in full riot gear storm our campus to quell a peaceful sit-in. It did wake up the school board that they needed to do more to address issues of concern and to be sure that relevant curriculum was being taught that went beyond the three Rs.

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