Equity & Diversity

Schools Respond to Student Walkouts With Mix of Discipline, Outreach

By Sean Cavanagh & Laura Greifner — March 30, 2006 2 min read

As waves of students across the country staged walkouts and joined protests this week over proposed changes to federal immigration policy, superintendents and principals scrambled to keep them in school, or lure them back, using strategies that ranged from campus lockdowns to disciplinary measures and person-to-person pleas.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, Superintendent Roy Romer instructed all high schools and middle schools to enforce a lockdown of campuses earlier this week, after more than 24,000 students in 52 schools walked out on Monday.

High school students in Fairfield, Calif., march to City Hall after staging walkouts at their schools to protest federal legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration.

As in other districts around the country, officials from the 760,000-student system said they tried to respect students’ right to demonstrate, while also making it clear that they were violating compulsory-attendance policies, and possibly putting themselves in danger of being cited by local law enforcement for loitering or other infractions.

“There are a variety of ways to express their opinions,” Mr. Romer said in an e-mail to Education Week. “But, we cannot condone student walkouts that endanger their safety, and remove them from receiving instruction. There is a fine balance we must achieve here, but missing class is not the way to go.”

Several of the largest student walkouts took place in districts in the western and southwestern United States, in areas with heavy Latino student populations. The uproar centers on proposed federal legislation that would criminalize illegal immigration. President Bush, by contrast, has proposed creating a temporary-worker program that would establish a means for those individuals to remain in the United States.

‘Tremendous Lessons Here’

School officials in Los Angeles and the 134,000-student San Diego city school district tried another tactic to encourage students to come back to school. Both districts sent fleets of buses to pick up students at rallies and gathering points, and bring them back to school. San Diego had more than 3,000 students walk out of school for protests on either Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, district spokeswoman Music McCall said.

At Metro Tech High School in Arizona, a total of about 400 students left the school on Monday and walked to the Arizona Capitol for a protest, taking an indirect, approximately four-mile route. Recognizing that they could not stop students from leaving, school officials asked them to take steps to protest safely, the school’s principal, Frank Rasmussen, said.

“We told the student leaders, ‘You’ve got a lot of young kids going with you,’ ” Mr. Rasmussen said, referring to freshmen and sophomores. “ ’They may not understand what this is about. Keep them safe.’ ”

The next day, Mr. Rasmussen said he called about 300 students for a meeting in the school’s auditorium, asking them not to leave school again, and warning them that school official would not countenance another walkout. The students, after discussing the possibility among themselves, decided to stay in school. The principal was pleased with the outcome. Most students who had walked out will be given a warning by school officials, he said. Only if they continued to miss school would officials consider stiffer penalties, such as in-school suspensions.

“They were wonderful and upbeat,” Mr. Rasmussen said of the student protesters’ response. “Democracy is not just something where you oppose someone. It’s something you work through, and know how to use the system. I think there have been tremendous lessons here.”


School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Why Two Superintendents of Mostly-White Districts Are Actively Fighting Anti-Black Racism
Predominantly white school districts across the country have started addressing systemic racism in the classroom, but not every district is doing it, and those who are brace for backlash.
5 min read
Outdoor education teacher Mark Savage challenges his students with a game in class at Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine on April 30, 2021.
Outdoor education teacher Mark Savage challenges his students with a game in class at Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine in April.
Linda Coan O’Kresik for Education Week
Equity & Diversity What Black Men Need From Schools to Stay in the Teaching Profession
Only 2 percent of teachers are Black men. Three Black male educators share their views on what's behind the statistic.
Equity & Diversity Opinion Researchers Agree the Pandemic Will Worsen Testing Gaps. But How Much?
Without substantial investment in their learning, the life chances of children from low-income families are threatened.
Drew H. Bailey, Greg J. Duncan, Richard J. Murnane & Natalie Au Yeung
4 min read
a boy trying to stop domino effect provoked by coronavirus pandemic
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images
Equity & Diversity Opinion The Chauvin Verdict Is in. Now What?
Justice has been served in the murder of George Floyd, but educators must recommit to the fight for racial equity, writes Tyrone C. Howard.

Tyrone C. Howard
4 min read
People gather at Cup Foods after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, on April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd.
Following the announcement of the guilty verdicts in the George Floyd murder trial this week, people gather outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis.<br/>
Morry Gash/AP