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.
Take Action ›
Grow the movement. Stay connected with NEA EdJustice. Sign up for updates here. Click here ›
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!”