High School Student Protests of the War against Iraq


Introduction Regarding Following Articles


Hearing about the Friday, November 16, high school student walkout in Brattleboro, Vermont, on NATIONAL SCHOOL WALKOUT DAY (part of a growing THIRD FRIDAY MOVEMENT), caused me to look up more information about high school students protesting the war against Iraq at their schools.  I found some interesting information.


If you Google the following, “protest Iraq War”+”high school”, you will get close to 10,000 links.  If you Yahoo Search the same combination of terms you will get almost 25,000 links.


Not all of the links will be about high school students conducting protests at their schools.  Many of the links will get you to articles about high school students participating in huge protests such as those organized by United for Peace and Justice, ANSWER, & other such groups in Washington and other large cities. 


However, many other links WILL bring you to articles about high school students protesting the war against Iraq by boycotting classes at their schools or conducting walkouts (usually getting detention, but occasionally more serious punishment).


Although one article below says the protests by high school students have received good attention by the media, I don’t think that’s even close to being the case.  I believe these kinds of protests by youth have been SERIOUSLY UNDER-REPORTED by the AP and other mainstream news organizations.


Here are six articles on protests conducted by high school students.  But it might warm your hearts to look up and read the stories of more such protests all around the country.  The kids have not been silent!  They’ve shown a willingness to break rules and to participate in civil disobedience - from before the war started until today.


George Desnoyers

November 21, 2007




BUHS students walk out of class in protest of the Iraq War

By Howard Weiss-Tisman

Brattleboro Reformer Staff

 Saturday, November 17


BRATTLEBORO - Start with a handful of committed student activists, throw in a helping of 21st century technology and base it all around a foreign war that has claimed nearly 3,900 American lives and before you know it you've got a full-scale student protest.


About 200 Brattleboro Union High School students peacefully walked out of their classes at 2 p.m. Friday to protest America's involvement in the Iraq War.

They gathered in front of the school holding signs, listening to speakers and showing their support for everyone else across the world who is fighting to bring an end to the war in Iraq.


"Why are we still there?" protest organizer Hannah Viens asked the crowd in front of the school. "We, as students, are concerned and we are standing up for our beliefs."


Viens, 17, a senior at the school, said earlier in the day that the BUHS student democrats wanted to organize a rally against the war.


At first there was the hope that a few dozen students would be willing to walk out of class, but after creating a Facebook page on the Internet, sending around e-mails and text messages, and slipping flyers into every locker at school as interest in the event grew.


"There's been a huge buzz about this," Viens said about a half-hour before the protest began. "School is a source of power, but they can't have class if we aren't there. We wanted to walk out to get people's attention."


The event was not sanctioned by the school, and each of the students, if their names are recorded by the teachers leading the afternoon class, will have to serve detention Monday.


The school also would not allow the students to put up posters about the rally.

As the students started to filter out of the front doors BUHS principal Jim Day stood off to the side to observe.


He said he didn't want to comment on the action, and he refused to come down on either side of the debate over whether America has a place fighting in the Middle East.


"This is not about my values, it's about theirs," Day said as the group grew into a large, peaceful throng.


The organizers of the walk out picked the time and date because they wanted to get it in before it got too cold and before the Thanksgiving holiday.


After a little Web surfing, however, they found that there is a national movement, The Iraq War Moratorium, that encourages acts of civil disobedience on the third Friday of every month.


The BUHS students joined other high schools that were protesting Friday in Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and at other schools in Vermont.


Students at Leland & Gray in Townshend also staged a walk out Friday.


Kyra Pelz-Walsh, 16, said the original idea for the Brattleboro school to stage the walk out grew out of a discussion she had with her uncle.


He said he remembered demonstrations against the Vietnam War and asked Pelz-Walsh what the student activists of today were doing.


"It sounded like a good idea," she said about the thought of organizing a protest at BUHS. "We need to start somewhere and this war will never end if people don't do something."


"Letters to the newspaper are a good thing, but we thought it was time to take action," added Meg Hudson, another one of the organizers.


Parents stood on the outside of the group to support their activist students.


After the group was gathered in front of the school, Viens and Pelz-Walsh spoke for a while and then Eric Wasileski, a member of the Massachusetts chapter of Veterans for Peace, addressed the crowd.


He thanked the students for being a part of the peace movement and told them that their work and support gave voice to the cause of bringing the American troops home.


"It's so important to see young people demanding an end to the Iraq War," he said.


The Brattleboro students stood in the cold afternoon light and listened. They held signs that read "No war" and "War is terrorism with a bigger budget."


Shannon Chalmers came out with a single peace sign earring dangling from her lobe. She adamantly denied that the big turnout had anything to do with getting out of school early.


"That's not what this is about," she said. "The point is that we want to make people aware about peace."


Jean Jersey, 76, who lives in Brattleboro, took part in her first peace march in Washington, D.C., in 1969. She came out to encourage and support the teenagers.


"It's wonderful they're here, but it's terrible that they have to do it," she said. "I love their enthusiasm. We've got to keep trying. We've got to keep doing what we can."


Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.




Hundreds of Students Walk Out of Classes to Protest War

By Marianne Mork and Ramy Khalil

Socialist Alternative.org

November 17, 2007


"I've been angry for many, many years about our administration and so have lots of youth. I'm really frustrated, for one, because I can't vote for President or legislators, but I can make a stand for what I believe in."
- Amy Englesberg, 17 year-old high school senior (Bellingham Herald)


In Seattle on November 16, over 500 students took a bold stand against the war in Iraq and military recruitment in schools. Students from over 30 high schools and nearly 10 universities and colleges walked out of classes at noon and converged at Westlake Center for a mass rally and march.


The Seattle walkout was part of a national student walkout on November 16 called by Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) and a coalition of antiwar organizations in coordination with the national Iraq Moratorium protests. Socialist Alternative also played a major role in organizing these walkouts. Students organized walkouts in at least 8 cities or counties: Brattleboro (Vermont), Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Whatcom County, and Lewis County.


The Seattle walkout drew students from numerous towns and suburbs: Shoreline, Everett, Kenmore, Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah, Renton, Bremerton, Bellingham, Anacortes, and Belfair.


In Minneapolis/St. Paul, 700-900 students organized a walkout. According to "The Olympian," 300-400 students from South Puget Sound Community College and Capital high schools organized a walkout in Olympia. The "Bellingham Herald" reported that around 100 Ferndale and Windward high school students walked out of classes and marched through Bellingham. On November 15, Tacoma high school students and Socialist Alternative organized a walkout of nearly 100 students.


These walkouts received an impressive amount of coverage in the mass media, reaching thousands of ordinary working people, soldiers, and military families with our message. Please check out all the media reports and video links below!


The Seattle walkout was incredibly powerful, spirited, and energetic. Students played the lead role in organizing, speaking, and playing music at the rally, as well as leading the march.


For the vast majority of high school students who came, this was their first protest, and they all came with passion and energy. One student from Seattle Central Community College noted that this was her first protest and captured how empowering the walkout was for young people when she said, "I've never felt so important."


Julia Weller was quoted in the Seattle P-I saying, "A lot of people at school say, 'It will not make a difference,' 'It's not worth it,' 'I can learn things at school.'" However, Masyn Vaillancourt, a fourth-grader protesting outside her elementary school with other 9-year old friends, said: "A lot, a lot, a lot of people die in war. I think if more people participate in doing this, we wouldn't have war anymore." (The Olympian)


Numerous adults, parents, and teachers also came out in support, many who were truly inspired to see a new generation of youth taking a bold stand and speaking from the stage with well researched facts about the costs of the war in lives and resources. Lieutenant Ehren Watada became the first officer in the country to refuse to fight in Iraq after he was inspired by the student walkout YAWR organized in 2005. Student activists organized this walkout to embolden even more students, workers, soldiers and military families to stand up and refuse to cooperate with this war.


Supporters of the war argue that we should not protest the war because we are not supporting the troops and we are being unpatriotic. However, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, some of whom had been injured in Iraq, spoke at the rally from personal experience about how the best way to support the troops is to get them out of Iraq immediately and out of harm's way. Over 3,800 U.S. soldiers and 1,000 private military contractors have been killed in Iraq, and over 20,000 soldiers have been injured, not to mention that an estimated 655,000 Iraqis have been killed.


Reverend Robert Jeffrey from the New Hope Church gave the most rousing, eloquent speech about the injustice of the government spending over $500 billion on the Iraq war while working people and people of color struggle to pay for basic needs like food, housing, and healthcare. Ramy Khalil, a Socialist Alternative member and walkout organizer, spoke about how the Democrats were elected to a majority in Congress a year ago on a surge of antiwar sentiment and how we need to build an independent mass movement to force Congress to use its control over the budget to stop passing bills that give President Bush billions of dollars to continue the war.


Aaron Dixon, the co-founder of the Seattle Black Panther Party, spoke about the need for people of all races to unite against this war and racism. Dixon ran for U.S. Senate in 2006 as an independent Green Party antiwar candidate against Washington's Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell who supports the war.


Unfortunately, some students faced threats of discipline and suspension from school administrators and parents for walking out of school. At one high school on the east side of Seattle, administrators even asked teachers to schedule tests and quizzes on the day of the walkout in order to make it more costly for students to participate in the walkout. But as Congress prepares to approve yet another $70 billion of funding for the war, students were determined to have their voices heard.


As Kristin Ebeling, a YAWR activist from the University of Washington, put it: "Making this statement is more important that any math problem we will ever do.

It's up to us to say, no, we don't want our generation in Iraq. We want them home, going to college, getting jobs, [we] want them to get social services. We don't want to spend money on this war--spend it on education and books and teachers."


After the rally, students marched through downtown energetically shouting chants like "books not bombs!" shutting down the streets in the central business district.


In the weeks before the protest, the police had refused to issue us a permit to march to 23rd Ave where a military recruiting station is located. However, we insisted that it was our right to march to the military recruiting station as part of our constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech and peaceful assembly. Ultimately, we succeeded in forcing the police to back down, which made the march much more meaningful and effective. The military recruiting station is located in Seattle's Central District, a traditionally African American neighborhood that is being gentrified by large corporations and real estate developers who are moving in, buying up land, and building expensive condominiums while providing few living-wage jobs. We rallied outside the military recruiting station to demand that the government create living-wage jobs and increase funding for education instead of sending military recruiters into our schools and communities with exaggerated promises of college financial aid and future careers.


We chanted "Hey recruiters, we're no fools! Get your lies out of our schools!" and "Stop, stop, recruiting the poor! Fight the rich, not their wars!"


The recruiting station was barricaded off by the police, so we succeeded in shutting it down for the day.


If you or any other students face discipline for walking out of school, please contact us immediately. We can mobilize hundreds of antiwar activists to protest your school authorities with emails and phone calls to protect your right to participate in this act of mass civil disobedience. Please forward this email to any students who may have faced any discipline.


All in all, the student walkout was a positive, successful step toward turning the overwhelming public sentiment against the war into a more active, visible opposition in the streets. However, in order to end this war, we need to show the ruling class in this country that millions of students, workers, and soldiers will no longer allow "business as usual" to continue while they kill thousands of Iraqis and Americans just so they can control Middle East oil supplies.


We need every single person to question these injustices and make a decision to get politically active and join us in building a powerful mass movement from below to end this war. If you want to organize an antiwar club, a teach-in, or a protest when military recruiters show up at your school, please click on the "join" link at the top of this page, write us a note about your interests, and we will contact you.


Many thanks to all those students, teachers, parents and the following endorsing organizations who made this walkout a success! Socialist Alternative, Lake Washington HS Peace Club, Nova HS Peace and Justice Club, Nathan Hale HS Peace Club, Seattle Central Community College Anti War Collective, Green Party of WA State, CODEPINK, American Friends Service Committee, Team Victory, Stand Up Seattle!, Philippine-US Solidarity Organization and BAYAN-USA (Pinay sa Seattle, AnakBayan Seattle, and Arts Kultural Seattle), Anti-Racist Action LA/People Against Racist Terror, Loose Change, Human Earth Animal Liberation, Freedom Socialist Party, Palestine Solidarity Committee-Seattle Chapter, Jewish Voice for Peace-Seattle, The Exile Project (a Musical Theatre Performance exploring the Prison Industrial Complex), Seattle Radical Women




Walk it out: high school students protest Iraq War

Central Washington University Observer

November 21, 2007

by Maggie Schmidt


Late Friday morning [November 16, 2007] on the corner of 3rd and Main Street, 19 student voices chanted “Bush lied, thousands died.” They were informed that it was National School Walkout Day to protest against the war in Iraq.

These students chose to walk out of class at 9:11 a.m. from Ellensburg High School and Excel Alternative High School.

“Teenagers don’t really have a voice, so it’s important for us to do it in protest,” Ashley Copin, EHS sophomore, said.

Signs were held high for passing traffic to see “make love, not war” and “honk for peace.”

“The Alternative school [students] made [signs] in the classroom because the teacher was in support of [the cause],” said Kellie Carns, Excel sophomore.

Some passing vehicles honked in support of the students’ cause. One vehicle found it necessary to scare the protesters by cutting the corner so far the vehicle almost hit two protesters.

“People have flipped us off, screamed, but not to run us over,” Angelique McClough, EHS sophomore, said. “That’s pretty extreme.”

Students planned this protest a week in advance. They started their protest walking from Ellensburg High School to Safeway, over to Jerrol’s Book and Supply and then to the Daily Record.

“Me and my brother got a lot of people to come,” Justin Becker, EHS freshman, said.

Even though the students exercised freedom of speech, the students are still receiving penalties.

Students who left their classes early are possibly facing an unexcused absence.

According to Rob Moffat, assistant principal of Ellensburg High School, it is wrong to say those who attended the protest were punished. It’s up to the parents to excuse the students.

“Students marked absent have a deadline of three days to become excused by their parent or guardian,” Moffat said.

Students with unexcused absences face consequences such as after-school detention or Saturday school.

“It’s definitely worth detention,” Becker said.





Hundreds of students skip class to protest Iraq war

by Brandt Williams

Minnesota Public Radio

November 16, 2007


An estimated 500 students skipped school Friday afternoon to rally against the war in Iraq in downtown Minneapolis. Some students came to the protest in the face of sanctions from their schools.


Minneapolis, Minn. — The students came from schools all around the Twin Cities to the plaza outside the Hennepin County Government Center. They expressed their stance on the war through chants, signs and song.


One of the organizers, Tyrus Thompson, who calls himself Tyrus A, sang a protest song in front of a group of charged-up teenagers.


"...looking to stop a rogue regime, the first one that we must confront is Washington D.C.," sang Thompson, who sports a mohawk completely spiked, reminiscent of early British punk rockers.


Thompson is with Youth Against War and Racism and a group called Socialist Alternative. The two groups were the main sponsors of the rally.


Kelsey Grinke from the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley recited the latest death tolls for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens.


"It has been the bloodiest year of the war so far," Grinke said. "I ask you, are these deaths really bringing justice and democracy to Iraq?"


Other speakers focused on the cost of the war in financial terms. They complained that the government should take the money being spent on the war and use it for their schools. Speakers called for smaller class sizes and to make more money available for college scholarships.


Students also chanted against military recruiters who look for enlistees at their schools. One student protester claimed that one of his friends was coached by a recruiter on how to beat a drug test.


Other students, like Selena Kane came to the rally because they have loved ones who are either in Iraq or in the process of going there.


"I'm here in part because my cousin is currently in training," she said. "He's already been through one, but now he's going back. And he has a little baby and a wife at home and I want him back."


Kane is 17 and a student at Southwest High School. She says she would have liked to have seen more of her fellow students turn out for the protest.


"I tried to convince as many people to come, but there's a sentiment that it's not going to make a difference and I feel - I think it's awful that they feel that way, but there are a few of us here to represent our school."


Selena Kane was not the only student at the rally with a loved one facing harm in Iraq.


I spoke with South High School freshman Nicole Peterson. Why did she come here today?


"To bring the troops home...some of my family is in the troops and I miss them...I just really want to bring him home, because I miss him a lot and I'm scared," she said.


Peterson says that while officials at her school didn't stop students from attending the rally, but if a student missed a test that would result in a failing grade.


The protest attracted some onlookers who are not high school students, but share their views about the war. One of those people is Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.


"I was up in my office when I saw people out peacefully protesting the war and I came down and said thank you. Because many of us were out protesting this before this war started. More people should," he said.


Following the rally they marched through downtown streets on their way to Augsburg College for a teach-in on the war.






NY City: Thousands of high school students walk out to protest Iraq war

By Bill Vann

World Socialist Web Site
March 6, 2003


Thousands of high school and college students joined demonstrations in several different parts of New York City on March 5 to protest the Bush administration’s plans for war against Iraq.


At high schools throughout the city, students staged walkouts in defiance of school administrators, who were instructed by the city’s Education Department to suppress participation in the demonstrations. At one Brooklyn high school, school authorities reportedly locked students in to prevent their joining the protests. At others, suspensions were threatened.


Over 100 students walked out at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan and marched nearly two miles up Broadway to a mass rally in Union Square. The school, which draws students from throughout the city based on competitive academic admissions, is just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site and had to be evacuated on September 11, 2001.


Groups of students ranging from scores to hundreds came from a wide spectrum of schools scattered throughout the city. Walkouts were reported at Washington Irving High School and other schools in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Students also walked out at the Bronx High School of Science and other schools in the Bronx. The youth converged on Union Square, the center of labor protests in New York City in an earlier period.


Many carried hand-lettered signs bearing slogans that included “Books not Bombs,” “Defend rights of all immigrants,” and “Declare war on corporate greed, not Iraq.”


“We kind of felt like making a statement on war,” said Hudson, a Stuyvesant sophomore. “I think it’s amazing that so many people from throughout the city have come here to take a stand against the war. This war is unjust and immoral. I think we are doing it just because we want to get their oil. I don’t how we can be down on Iraq when the countries that are responsible for violating the most UN resolutions are the US and Israel.”


Hudson said that anti-war sentiment was widespread at his school: “For every kid who walked out, there are 10 who feel the same way but didn’t want to miss class or were scared they would be suspended.”


Karl, a senior at Washington Irving High School, came with a group that had walked out of the school, located just a few blocks east of Union Square. “I’m with peace,” he said. “I don’t think you can just go in there and take what’s not ours in that way—the oil I mean.” Referring to the events of September 11, 2001, Karl added, “It brought a lot of people in the city together, but not behind war. The way I see it, if we bomb them first, they’re going to look for a way to bomb us.”


The crowd of students, some of whom banged drums and danced, drew numbers of workers on their lunch hour into the square to join the protest. A number of students spoke from the platform, calling attention to problems ranging from growing homelessness in New York to the lack of proper supplies and deteriorating conditions in their school. Others spoke of siblings and relatives who had been sent to the Persian Gulf in preparation for war on Iraq. The rally’s organizers, however, put forward no perspective for carrying forward the students’ struggle. Their speeches essentially glorified militant protest, while several presented themselves as veterans of the Vietnam era anti-war movement.


Simultaneous with the demonstration in Union Square, a separate rally of several hundred people, most of them college students, took place at Washington Square, about 10 blocks south. After a few speakers, a rap performance and the reading of some poetry, most of the demonstrators carried their protest inside the New York University library before marching north to Union Square.


Borough of Manhattan Community College student Felix Nunez was among those rallying in Washington Square. “I came out to support the students against the war and to create a better world for future generations,” he said. “I don’t like the way the US government is treating people all over the world, oppressing other countries, including my country, the Dominican Republic, which they invaded twice.


“Now people are starting to realize that we are all brothers and sisters, even though they live far away from us. The movement against the war is growing very rapidly, but one of the main problems facing us is that we cannot identify with any party, either Democrat or Republican. Millions of people called their representatives, but they didn’t listen to us. I think we need to create a new party. The ones we have now are representing the multinational corporations, who are the ones taking us to war and the ones who selected Bush.”


Later in the afternoon, both City University of New York (CUNY) students and high school students gathered at Hunter College for a protest. Speakers and demonstrators drew a connection between the impending war and proposed budget cuts and tuition hikes in both the state and city university systems.


Lisa Ross, a junior at Hunter, carried a hand-lettered sign reading, “Fight for CUNY, not for oil.” The proposed hikes, which would raise the annual cost of tuition by $1,200, would threaten the right of many students to an education, she said.


“We have students here who are commuters, working full-time jobs, single mothers,” she said. “They cannot afford that kind of increase. This government is spending $400 billion a year on the military budget while it is sucking money from out of the states, causing the budget crises. That money could go for education, for health care, for childcare and a lot of other things. It shouldn’t be used to conquer and oppress other countries.”


After the rally at Hunter, students began marching south to a demonstration outside the midtown offices of New York’s Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, both of whom voted in favor of the resolution granting Bush authority to invade Iraq. At one point, police attacked those in the front of the march, arresting several students.






Teens skip school to protest Iraq war

By Victoria Edwards, Daily Staff Reporter

The Michigan Daily

March 21, 2003


"One, two, three, four - this is not a legal war!" was the cry of the roughly 200 high school students who protested in front of the Ann Arbor Federal Building yesterday.


The rally, one of many protests held in front of the Federal Building, included high school students from Ann Arbor Community High School and was joined by students from the surrounding Pioneer and Plymouth high schools.


Community senior Beatrice Nathan said the rally was worthwhile.


"I think it (went) really well. From Community alone, over half of the school is out here. It's great just to be here and show we have an opinion and don't support war. It is important we're not apathetic and we know what is going on," Nathan said.


Nathan said she hopes this rally will show other Americans there is resistance to policies and the majority opinion does not rest with the belief that "dropping bombs is the only option."


"There are other opinions, besides those of pro-war. Many young people don't believe in this war and it is those young people that are being expected to carry it out. If they don't believe it, it is not worth fighting for," Nathan said.


Evelyn Hollenshead, an organizer for the event, also voiced anti-war sentiment.


"This event is to get our voice out that everyone is not for war. Anti-war voices get bogged down by polls. But it is important to show that students won't just let this happen without mobilizing for what they care about," Hollenshead said.


But observing Ann Arbor resident James Hendricks said the protest was in vain.


"I think it is kind of hopeless, really. It (the war) is already rolling. It's not going to make a difference - no one's going to listen. (Protests) have never worked before," Hendricks said.


Hendricks said he felt the protest was made up of a lot of students who are not as informed as they should be on the issues surrounding the Iraq conflict.


Still, LSA junior Rebecca Brown, who also watched the protest, said she was impressed by it.


"I think it is great. It is one of the biggest turnouts I've seen for a long time for a protest. People say this age group does not care about war, but this is a true testament that they care and are doing something about it," Brown said.


However, there was a handful of pro-war Pioneer students who showed up later in the rally for a counter-protest.


"These people can speak their minds but so can we," anti-war protester Pioneer senior Sean Sullivan said.


"I support the war because there are a lot of people being oppressed in Iraq. We (America) should speak up for oppressed people," Sullivan said.


He said that in Ann Arbor, his pro-war stance on Iraq makes him part of the minority. But he feels this is an asset because it forces him to be vocal about his beliefs.


"I think the protesters are ignorant and the only reason they are here is because their parents told them that Bush was dumb. I feel that they are uninformed and are doing it for attention and to belong to something," Pioneer sophomore Kara Sullivan said.


Pioneer sophomore Caitlin Kurtz said she respects the opinions of the anti-war protesters as long as they respect hers.


"However, during the rally, protesters openly came up to me just to ridicule me," Kurtz said.