As a Garfield student, I wholeheartedly support the efforts of my classmates in protesting state budget cuts to education, and on the topic of the November 30th protest at City Hall, I respectfully disagree with the opinion that the walk-out was simply a waste of class time. I have seen how passionate and thoughtful my peers have been on this issue, and I believe that their message is worth missing a couple hours of school.
Garfield students’ frustrations began when Jesse Hagopian, a Garfield teacher and major activist for educational funding, was arrested on November 28th after protesting at the state capitol. Although Mr. Hagopian was quickly released, his outcry for education was immediately taken up by many of our school’s student leaders and political activists; a walk-out and protest at City Hall was planned in response. Unfortunately, the timeframe between the decision for the walk-out and the actual event was short, and other high schools were not notified in time to participate. The protest was a great success nevertheless, gaining attention in both the local and national media. The controversy over walking during school hours is understandable; many Garfield students (including myself) were not able to miss class in order to go.
I would like to point out, however, that the Garfield administration was not particularly opposed to the protest—unlike plain old skipping class, the event was considered an excused absence if a student showed parent permission. I also defend the walk-out because it is a common technique used to gain attention on an issue—what is a strike if not an extended walk-out? By leaving school, Garfield’s students showed that they are frustrated with continued budget cuts, just as workers go on strike to show that they are unhappy with their working conditions. I believe that the walk-out was not meant to be repeated again and again, but to gain attention initially so that the movement can continue.
In the weeks since the walk-out, Garfield students have been busy with the continued fight against education cuts. A new organization named SWaC (Students of Washington for Change) has quickly sprung up among the protest’s leaders with the intention of organizing students from around the state in more events. As you can read on their website or Facebook page, SWaC invites all of Washington’s young people from secondary school through college to join in the movement. And you don’t have to miss school to do so—SWaC recently held a “teach-in” after school at Garfield with both student and adult speakers, while other Seattle high schools are sponsoring letter-writing sessions to Washington legislators. SWaC also joined with college students in a protest at the University of Washington on December 14th (you can watch a video about it). If you support funding for education, don’t be afraid to get involved! There are plenty of ways to spread the message, with or without missing class.
Editorial by Callan, teen blogger