Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Austin area students stage walkouts in solidarity with Florida students calling for stricter gun laws

Today, on a cold, wet day in Austin, several hundred middle and high school students walked out of school during lunch hours and spoke out in solidarity with Florida students calling for stricter gun laws.  It's inspiring to see students using their First Amendment rights in this way.  Their strong statements and collective actions are making government leaders pay attention.

Here is an account from this afternoon's online Austin American-Statesman by writers Mary Huber and Melissa Taboada:

School officials now estimate that nearly 500 students at three Austin area school districts are participating in walkouts to show their solidarity with students in Florida demanding stricter gun laws.The Dripping Springs school district said more than 300 students walked off several of its campuses during lunch hour. At the Dripping Springs High School, they gathered in front of the flag pole outside and provided brief remarks, officials said.

"It is past time for elected officials to make a change and work diligently towards keeping the students of this country safe,” said Dripping Springs senior Meredith Anderson, one of the student walkout organizers. “No student in this country should have to fear for their life as they enter their school building. We hope to inspire elected officials to take an active stance on protecting our schools, and we hope to have our voices heard. This is a bipartisan issue that needs to be addressed fully and comprehensively to ensure the safety of this nation's children."

A walkout at Clint Small Middle School in Southwest Austin also started at lunch hour Wednesday afternoon. The school’s principal, Matthew Nelson, said in a letter to parents that additional police officers had been sent to the campus as more than 100 students left the school. The walkout is still ongoing. Nelson said the extra police were not sent to campus “to stop the event” but “to ensure students remained safe.”

“We encourage our students to exercise their rights and to be civically engaged members of the community,” Nelson said in the letter. “We do strongly believe, however, that the safest place to have these discussions is inside our school buildings.”

Another 30 students walked out of Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park, Leander school district officials said, along with 15 from Austin High School and 50 from East View High School in Georgetown, school officials said.Both the Vista Ridge High School and East View High School demonstrations lasted 17 minutes, to honor the 17 people who died after a gunman opened fire at a Florida high school last week, officials said.The walkouts come alongside other similar demonstrations and rallies across the country after the Florida shooting.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Students take the lead in speaking out against gun violence

Student lie-in at the White House on Presidents Day, photo by Bill Clark, Getty Images

Power to the students!  They exercised their First Amendment rights and took their message directly to the White House on Presidents Day.  Here is an article about it from the Huffington Post by Hayley Miller and Doha Madani:
High School Students Lead Protest Against Gun Violence in Front of White House
WASHINGTON ― Dozens of students gathered in front of the White House on Monday to demand changes to gun laws, just days after a mass shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead.
The demonstration was organized by Teens For Gun Reform, an organization created by students in the Washington, D.C., area in the wake of Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Protesters participated in what they said would be a three-minute lie-in, which began around 12:30 p.m. on Presidents Day. They lay down in front of the White House “in representation of the victims of school shootings,” according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.
“By doing this, we will make a statement on the atrocities which have been committed due to the lack of gun control, and send a powerful message to our government that they must take action now,” the group wrote on Facebook.
Following the lie-in, protesters continued to hold signs in support of stricter guns laws and shouted phrases including “Shame on you” and “Disarm hate” toward the White House. The group also chanted “No more deaths,” “Am I next?” and “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today?”
Last week’s massacre at the South Florida high school, in which a 19-year-old former student opened fire using an assault-style rifle, sparked protests and calls to action from students nationwide.
A group of students who survived the Parkland shooting have been outspoken in their criticism of Trump and lawmakers who receive financial contributions from gun lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association.
On Sunday, the students announced plans for a march on Washington to demand congressional action on gun violence. The event, dubbed “March For Our Lives,” is scheduled for March 24.
Whitney Bowen and Eleanor Nuechterlein, both 16-year-old high school students from the D.C. area, started Teens For Gun Reform just two days after the Parkland shooting.
“You never wake up thinking it’s going to be your school or it’s going to be your friends or family,” Bowen told HuffPost. “The Parkland kids didn’t either. ... They woke up and went to school for the last time because there’s not enough gun control.”
Monday’s protest at the White House was planned on Presidents Day for symbolic reasons, Nuechterlein said. It’s not enough for President Donald Trump and other politicians to say “sorry” after school shootings, she said, they also need to start taking real legislative action to prevent them from happening.
Both Bowen and Nuechterlein said they plan to attend next month’s march on Washington.
“We might be 16 now and we might not be able to vote, but we can protest and we can use social media and we will make our voices heard,” Bowen said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t come down to politics. It comes down to kids dying in classrooms.”
Elodie Camus, a 15-year-old student at the British International School of Washington, D.C., participated in the White House protest Monday with her mother.
U.S. gun laws “have put so many people in danger over the years in this country and there needs to be reform,” Camus told HuffPost, adding that she no longer feels “safe at all” at school.

“Something needs to be changed so not as many people are harmed,” she said.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Eastside Panthers

Hart, Tami and I had a SOY table at Eastside Memorial HS today during their single lunch hour.  For some reason, we had less interest in the table today than usual,  but we always enjoy the interactions we do have.  Some students at Eastside attend the International School and are just learning English.  We didn't have a fluent Spanish speaker with us today, but we managed with our halting Espanol and lots of pointing and looking things up on smart phones.  Students were very patient with us!

Because Eastside still officially contains the "at the Johnston Campus" name, which refers to a Confederate general, Eastside is among the AISD schools slated to have a name change.  So, we asked students their ideas for what new name they would be proud of.  Several suggested just leaving it "Eastside," which may be what happens.  But, other students may have another name they'd really like to use.  AISD will soon begin the process, so we shall see.  One staffer today suggested "Lorax Academy," in reference to the Dr. Seuss book championing environmental protection.  This is appropriate, given Eastside being an eco-campus, with gardens and chickens.

We didn't have a large number of voters for the Penny Poll, but the percentages came out as follows:  27% of the budget for Education, 22% for Health Care, 22% for the Military, 10% for NASA, 10% for the Environment and 9% for Humanitarian Aid.

We offered some new buttons today along with the shirts.

It was good to see these posters from Communites in Schools posted in the hallways, and also posters re. emotions at the counseling center.

I agree - often, anger is the appropriate response to unfairness and helps alert us to injustice.  Consequently,  I would add under how to deal: think about what the injustice is and ways that it can be addressed and how we can be active in achieving what is fair. 

Thanks, Panthers!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Black History Month and the Reagan HS Career Fair

Hart, Tami and I had a super tabling today at the Reagan HS career fair. The all-day event was in the school gym and students came through steadily, taking an interest in our t-shirt challenge, stickers and literature. Our reflection question asked students to think about current happenings that are becoming part of Black History. Most responses centered on Barack Obama's historic presidency, #BlackLivesMatter and police brutality.

 Approx. 75 students completed the t-shirt challenge. We saw at least one student wearing one of our shirts from last year, and a teacher said that he sees the shirts worn often around school. 

Penny Poll results showed equal top priority for Health Care and Education, each garnering 29% of the budget, 18% for Environmental protection, 13% for the Military, 6% for NASA and 5% for Humanitarian Aid. One student commented, "Without Education, we wouldn't have Health Care." Several students put all their pennies into the Environment jar. WIthout a planet, we wouldn't have anything. Reagan HS has a JROTC program, and several students came by wearing their uniforms. There was an Army recruiter across the gym from us. A number of students said they were thinking of enlisting, and we were able to talk with them about alternatives. Thanks to Reagan students and staff for all the interest and participation!

Here are some of the many student responses to the Black History question: