On Monday, hundreds of Boston-area students walked out of school and gathered in front of the Massachusetts State House to protest the election of Donald Trump. The protest was organized by a smaller, diverse group of college and high school students and gained a large following on Facebook, with 848 students marking that they were planning to attend the event.
This protest follows a national trend after the election last month, in which young people have taken an active role in political demonstrations. Students in middle and high school participated in the walkout, which was similar to a demonstration carried out by District of Columbia Public Schools students earlier this month. Students in D.C. left class and marched to Trump International Hotel, and then the Lincoln Memorial to decry the election of Trump.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS’ 09, was critical of the students’ decision to leave class.
“I just think that during school hours—right now, this early in the year—I just don’t think it’s needed today,” he said in an interview with The Boston Herald. “I think they can do it after school.”
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tommy Chang released a video via Twitter on Sunday, prior to the protest, that asked students to reconsider walking out of class.
“There is a time and place for these conversations to happen, and peaceful advocacy for what you care about is important, but not during learning time,” he said in the video.
Walsh and Chang’s concerns over students missing class is valid, as a portion of the participants attend public schools, which are funded by taxpayer dollars. Class time, as well as teachers’ time and school resources, are undeniably valuable, but it is important to recognize the strategic intention of the students.
The students’ decision to walk out of class at 1 p.m. sent a symbolic message. Public education is one of young people’s only direct connections to government, and served as an important and significant outlet for students to protest. Americans aged 13 to 17, without the right to vote, are given no direct voice in politics. Leaving class to promote their political opinion was a powerful statement that garnered mass media attention.
The protest was previewed and covered by The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, and other major news sources. Such recognition is necessary for the protest to have a real impact on the community and public opinion.
Students currently in middle and high school are those who will inherit an America shaped by Trump’s policies. Many significant political issues affect these students directly, such as education reform. For groups that have been direct targets of Trump’s rhetoric—specifically LGBTQ, Hispanic, and Muslim students—showing discontent through public protests is one of the most important forms of media available to defend their rights.
As Mayor, Walsh has a responsibility to encourage students not to skip school. But, middle and high school students do not have other methods in seeking consideration and validation when it comes to political decision-making. Therefore, the efforts of these students should not be overlooked.
The walkout will likely be subject to criticism. Some might argue that many of the students do not know enough about politics to protest in the first place, even though quotes from young people at the rally might suggest otherwise. Some also might claim that students used the demonstration as an excuse to cut class.
In order to dispel such criticisms of the protest, the students should follow up on Monday’s walkout with concrete action, such as volunteering for local and grassroots campaigns. Taking this initiative would also help to further promulgate the students’ message. The follow-up meeting, which will take place at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design on Wednesday night, will discuss further action and is a step in the right direction.
In taking political action, it is important not to be discouraged or disheartened by criticism and doubt, but to remember that change is only possible through activity.
Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor