Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Students leave school, join rally against war, recruiting"

Bothell Times:
They took the WASL and left.

On the second day of the test's math section, Dana Golden, 16, and Carolyn Samuelson, 15, 10th-graders at Seattle's Garfield High School, wrapped up the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in the morning. But they decided it was more important to protest the Iraq war than to attend their afternoon classes.

They were among several hundred students from about 20 area schools who walked out of class Wednesday to join an anti-war rally at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

The event, also a protest against military recruiting in high schools, was organized by Youth Against War and Racism. It continued into the afternoon as students marched to the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building, City Hall and, finally, Seattle Public Schools headquarters.

Most of the protesters were high-schoolers — like Samuelson and Golden, who arrived in a group of six, standing in a semicircle with friends, still sporting their backpacks or book bags. Some college students also showed up.

Many high-school students had finished Wednesday's section of the WASL before heading down to the rally. But students who missed the WASL Wednesday — passage of which is required for graduation — would not receive a score for math, said Molly O'Connor, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. They would have to retake the entire math test again this summer or next spring.

As for cutting school, penalties ranged from a session of detention to a call home to parents. For other high-schoolers, a note from mom or dad was enough to earn an excused absence. Officials from several area school districts, including Lake Washington, Seattle and Renton, said they didn't know how many students left school to participate.

"I hope that people aren't here just to skip class — that they'll remember it," Golden said. "I just feel like it's our responsibility, since we're safe and getting an education, to stand up for the people who aren't — like the people in Iraq."

Samuelson agreed.

"I think that I can make a difference," she said. "This rally has inspired us to think we're going to make an anti-war club at our school."

Surrounded by their friends, the two stood among a throng of students, listening to speakers roar into the microphone on stage. Some kids had drawn peace symbols on their cheeks, while others waved homemade signs.

Emma Chadband, 17, a junior at Bainbridge High School, held up a black sign reading "Make Cookies, Not War," which matched her dark outfit. She stood next to Felice Gallego, 16, who clutched a sign of her own.

"The class we're missing is American studies," Chadband said. "And we don't want to repeat the past, we want to create the future."

At Seattle Public Schools headquarters, about 100 students sat on the grass and curbs while they listened to anti-war speakers on a makeshift stage.

As they waited to march into the School Board meeting at 6 p.m., some walked around with large buckets to collect donations, and one person was selling soup and bread being cooked on a portable electric stove powered by a generator.

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