Students who took part in antiwar walkout object to detention penalty against 250 protesters
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
By Lisa Rich
PRINCETON BOROUGH, NEW JERSEY– Protesting the war in Iraq is the right of every citizen, but if you do it during school time, expect to sit in detention. Princeton High School officials issued an estimated 250 after-school detentions to students who walked out of class March 19 — the day after the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Administrators issued the detentions after the students walked out of class in the early afternoon, missing two periods of instruction. During that time, the students held a rally and speak-out.
Some of those disciplined, however, have not taken the punishment lightly. A handful of students yesterday skipped their assigned detentions and, instead, went to the district’s special board meeting to voice their objection to being reprimanded.
“Not all education can take place in the classroom,” said Princeton sophomore Sarita Rosenstock. “It’s important for students to exercise these rights, especially because many of us can’t even vote. We need to have our own methods of participation.”
Superintendent Judith Wilson, who attended the antiwar rally herself, said the students handled themselves maturely, but there “are also perimeters.” Board Vice President Alan Hegedus told the students to accept their detentions with pride. “A statement becomes a statement because you’re willing to get detention for it,” Hegedus said. “If you’re going to buck the system, take the consequences.”
The organizer of the walkout, sophomore Aislinn Bauer, said the rally against the war gave students an opportunity that isn’t found in the classroom. During history lessons, she said, it’s more acceptable to talk about past events than to discuss conflicts existing today.
“It’s as if the teachers don’t want to get in trouble or cause problems by engaging in debate that has many different sides. But this war is very real,” Bauer said. “We had to take it in our own hands to educate ourselves and others.”
On Sunday, Bauer and her friends started a nationwide petition on the internet, urging that phone calls be made and e-mails sent to Princeton administrators, demanding that the students who participated be commended and not punished. Since then, more than 200 signatures have been collected from Anchorage, Alaska, to Lawrenceville, according to the petition. “Please call off this absurd decision, which violates their freedom of speech,” wrote Stephen Pierson, a senior at the University of Toledo. “Teens are citizens as well; please treat them as such.”
But one board member offered a different perspective. JoAnn Cunningham said she remembers the heat of protest in the 1960s, when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum and youths were speaking out against discrimination. “Detention?” Cunningham said. “Hey, we went to jail for protesting.” [To go to the original article, go here.]