In what is being described by organizers as "the largest youth antiwar demonstration in Minnesota since the Vietnam era," thousands of students are planning to walk out of classes tomorrow in protest of the war in Iraq and military recruitment in schools. But at least two area schools (Central and Jefferson) are threatening students with suspension. The students will hold a press conference this afternoon at 3:30 at Minneapolis Technical and Community College (1501 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.), the site of a proposed peace concert for tomorrow that also got unplugged. Here are the students' statements:
Appeal from Jefferson High students
We are three students from Jefferson High School in Bloomington, MN. We are being threatened with suspension for passing out fliers advertising the April 28 walkout. We aren't allowed to wear shirts that say "I'm walking out for peace." We aren't even allowed to SAY the word walkout.
First we attempted to get posters approved through official ways. We got called in and told that advocating the walkout by distributing any material or voicing any knowledge of it happening was going to cause a disruption to the school learning environment.
We got a National Lawyers Guild lawyer to write a letter to our principal explaining that Tinker vs. Des Moines gives us the right to organize the walkout in school, but this made no difference. In our meeting with the Principal today [4/26] their lawyer had given them a response to the NLG letter, claiming that it does not fall under protected free speech.
Our right to free speech and protest, as well as the rights of our fellow Youth Against War and Racism chapter members, have been denied. Basically we refuse to be censored for our right to practice our political freedoms including telling people an event is going on. We will continue to pass out leaflets and they will probably continue confiscating or suspending people handing them out.
Here's what we'd like for you to do: call our administration. Demand that our rights are supported. Flood their offices with phone calls and emails reminding them that teenagers are people with rights, because they seem to have forgotten. The numbers are below.
Bloomington Schools Superintendent, Gary Prest 952-681-6402 [email protected]
Peace and Love, Alex Uhrich, Libby Tousignant, Ben Zabel Jefferson Youth Against War and Racism Contact us at: [email protected]
Appeal from Central High Students
At St. Paul Central High School, our chapter of Youth Against War and Racism has been planning for the antiwar walkout on Friday, April 28 in solidarity with other Twin Cities YAWR chapters. We are protesting against military recruiters in our schools as well as against the war as a whole.
We have produced a variety of leaflets explaining our cause and encouraging students to join us. Over the past week, we have begun to pass the fliers out more intensely. As a result, our school administrators and our principal, Mary Mackbee, have attempted to prevent us from passing them out.
On Wednesday, April 26, before school, many of our fliers were confiscated by Ms. Mackbee while they were being distributed. We were told that we would be punished if they were found passing out any more fliers. The school staff have been instructed to assign detention to any student caught distributing fliers. Later in the day, when we attempted to get back the fliers that had been confiscated, we were then told that, if we were found passing out leaflets, we would be suspended for "willful disobedience."
Our First Amendment rights cannot be ignored. Regardless of any claims made by the school that we are under their supervision, our fundamental democratic right to freedom of expression cannot be abridged. The schools might claim that we are creating a disruption, however a much greater disruption is being created for us by the military recruiters in our schools and by the loss of funding that our schools must deal with due to taxpayer money being spent on war instead of education.
We cannot allow them to continue to prevent us from expressing ourselves. For this reason, we ask that you help us to protect our democratic freedom and our right to free expression.
We ask that you call or e-mail our District Superintendent, Lou Kanavati, and demand that we be allowed to exercise our basic right to expression and distribute antiwar fliers, brochures, or other documents free of censorship or threats.
Superintendent Lou Kanavati 651/767-8150 [email protected]
Thank you, Sean Foltin and Shane Davis Central High Youth Against War and Racism Contact us at: [email protected]