Youth in Action, July-August 2017

From the July-August 2017 issue of News & Letters

by Natalia Spiegel

Students at Bayonne High School in New Jersey, walked out of class in late April to protest the elimination of over 200 teaching positions in their school district. School administrators and political leaders were shocked by the massive strike of 200 to 300 students. The town’s mayor promised to see if any teachers could be rehired.

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In Independence, Mo., in late April, students protested a climate of racism in their high school, citing two racist Snapchat postings that came from within the school. Students and parents both said that the school tolerated racism. The two students responsible for the racist messages were suspended for one day.

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In early June, students at Venice High School in Calif., walked out of class, demanding that the new principal be fired for being racist. The protesting groups included MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán), the Black Student Union and the Gay Straight Alliance. They cited the fact that she rejected Black History Month celebrations, rejected a call to make school robocalls in Spanish, and refused to allow gender-neutral bathrooms. Also controversial was the firing of the only Black college counselor in the school, who was very popular with students struggling to get into college.

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Hundreds of high school students at the Vernon Township High School in New Jersey staged a peaceful walkout over the appointment of a new principal and demanded that the school’s vice-principal be elevated to the position instead. Over half the students walked out. Some carried signs that said “Not My Principal” and “Well-behaved teenagers seldom make history.”

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In Charlotte, N.C., a student was banned from attending her graduation because she was wearing a shirt the principal found objectionable. She was threatened by a security guard with a gun. The principal told her she would be arrested if she did not change her shirt. The student, Summer, told a reporter that she refused to move because she felt that she had to stand up to the pressure.

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