With no voice in this election, middle- and high-school students across the country are spilling out of classrooms by the hundreds and thousands, shouting their outrage in the streets and protesting the Trump-inspired atmosphere of hate actions, racism, misogyny and bigotry.
In fact, K-12 schools have become battlegrounds of resistance.
This parallels the attacks and vandalism aimed against people of color and the undocumented that have been reported across the country. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, incidents reported of intimidation and harassment doubled in a single week to 437 after the presidential election. Of those, 99, or nearly one-quarter, took place at K-12 schools against immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ people and other groups. (SPLC Hatewatch, Nov. 15)
Students are walking out because Trump threatens a future that is just beginning for them, and they feel it’s the only way to be heard. One Portland teacher told Workers World that students feel the Trump election in their gut. With Trump, they see a future of joblessness, crippling student debt, deportation and a declining economy that benefits only a handful of billionaires.
Some walk out in solidarity with undocumented parents, Muslim friends or LGBTQ peers. They fear that the hard-fought right to same-sex marriage could be reversed under a Trump-appointed Supreme Court.
Students say: ‘We’re leading ourselves’
A social media campaign throughout the country inspired student walkouts on Nov. 14, the Monday after the election. Hundreds of middle- and high-school students walked out of a number of area schools in Portland, Phoenix, Des Moines, New York, Detroit, Denver and Seattle; Beltsville and Silver Springs, Md.; Washington, D.C.; and Alameda, Calif. They blocked traffic on major highways, staged sit-ins and protested at landmarks and city halls.
“Silence is violence,” shouted hundreds of students from at least 14 Portland schools. Some marched to City Hall in the rain to join ongoing protests that had swelled to 4,000 over the weekend. Ruth Ataliah Teston, a member of the Multicultural Student Union, said, “We are being silenced about something that affects all of our futures.” (Portland Tribune, Nov. 15)
In many cities protesters were largely people of color, undocumented or LBGTQ people. In Phoenix, students came from two schools where 90 percent of the student population is people of color, mostly Latinx, according to U.S. News & World Report. In Des Moines, students shouted, “We’re undocumented and we’re unafraid” and “Let’s dump Donald Trump” or “F—k Donald Trump.” They linked arms and sang and chanted in Spanish. (Des Moines Register, Nov. 9)
In Metro Detroit, two days after a group of young students at the Royal Oak Middle School chanted, “Build the wall,” hundreds of Wayne State University demonstrators marched to the school shouting, “No Trump, No wall.” The incident went viral on Facebook. (Detroit Free Press, Nov. 11)
In the same article, white students at nearby Dewitt Junior High reportedly blocked entrances to keep students of color out of the school. Two days later hundreds marched there with signs reading, “Not my President” and “Stop bigotry.” Demonstrator Mary Hippler said, “All of this is happening right now because he has validated it,” referring to Trump. “He has told the country: It is OK to do this. It is OK to hate, to sexually assault people.” She carried a sign reading, “No means no” and “Grabbing a woman’s genitals is sexual assault.”
In many schools, teachers and principals encouraged students to express their views by allowing the walkouts or imposing minor consequences such as unexcused absences. Racist graffiti and harassment by young, emboldened Trump supporters in Alameda, Calif., inspired hundreds of nearby Oakland students from a dozen high schools to walk out of classes and take to the streets.
Alameda Unified School District Superintendent Sean McPhetridge stated, “We do not tolerate hate speech, bullying, racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other forms of hatred.” He said the district is dedicated to providing “an inclusive, safe and secure environment.” (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 14)
The LA Times also reported that more than a thousand high school students in East Los Angeles, many Latinx, marched out of classes with signs reading, “Latinos contra Trump” and shouting, “We reject the president elect” and “Bridges not walls.” Suzanne Rueda, 15, said, “It feels like we’re leading ourselves.” She had been protesting since Wednesday: “We can’t vote. This is all we can do.” Supporting the students and their families protesting “politics of fear, racism and misogyny,” United Teachers Los Angeles has committed itself to “educational and racial justice — both in our classrooms and in our communities.”
In larger cities, students came out by the thousands. In Seattle, 2,300 students walked out of 14 middle and high schools across the city to show support for Muslims, immigrants and other victims of Trump’s hate message.
In Washington, D.C., more than 1,000 middle school and high school students left class and protested outside the Trump International Hotel, holding signs reading, “Boycott bigotry” and “Stronger together.” They later shut down the Lincoln Memorial.
About 200 middle- and high-school students left two Denver high schools with signs reading, “Millennial voice matters,” “Make peace not war” and “Si, se puede.” During their rally at the state Capitol, 17-year-old Noelie Quintero said they represented Latinx, Muslims, women and others marginalized by Trump. “We’re not going anywhere — we’re going to continue to stand strong,” she said. “Even though we’re only 16- and 17-year-olds and we can’t vote, our voice matters. What we believe matters, and we’re not going to stop.” (AP, Nov. 15)