A protest about a protest at a New Jersey high school

by on April 1, 2008 · 2 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Education, Organizing, Peace Movement

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.]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Aislinn Bauer April 2, 2008 at 9:50 am

Just so we get the right message across, we dealt with our consequences. What is the purpose of school? The purpose is to learn, to prepare you for the real world. We need to create a venue for discussion, to discuss issues regarding our “real world”–issues that we can’t hide from. We’ve been told that that’s what clubs are for-but that’s only true to an extent. We need a place where all sides of issues are able to be discussed and debated so that students can understand whats happening in the world around them. We need teachers that can provide students with information about these issues, and all sides of it, not just what we learn from popular media. We cannot be afraid of these topics being brought up in the school and classroom settings. We want to be able to discuss this issue, and others issues, in a school setting. We are asking for teachers to encourage their students to talk about their views and that they are open to all sides of the issue so that there is more discussion. We also want to push to get a current events class where all you do is analyze current events, debate all sides, and use that knowledge in our world. We want changes in our school so we can speak out against issues like the war, and learn more about it within the school setting. Students shouldn’t feel like they will get in trouble for voicing their opinions about very real and very important issues that effect their lives today as the future of this country.

We want to get across that we arent just complaining about a detention, but rather getting important change within our school…

-Aislinn

Reply

avatar Frank Gormlie April 2, 2008 at 10:15 am

Aislinn – very well said. I think you’re getting your message across. If we had more young students like you, our country will be saved.

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