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One week, Shane James, an honor roll student at Northwestern High School in Prince George’s County, was lauded for his political activism.The next, he was removed from classes for attempting to effect change. Northwestern Principal Edgar Batenga suspended James, 16, and three other students on March 1 for organizing a walkout to increase teacher pay, improve the quality of education and demand an apology to Filipino teachers who will lose their jobs because their visas will expire.
Batenga said he made his decision to suspend the students based on the school system’s policies and procedures, which allow him to suspend for “inciting others to disturbance and/or violence.”
The school hosted a forum Monday evening to discuss the walkout and the principal’s response.
“They said they were concerned about riots and people’s health and safety,” Mitiuriev said. “This wasn’t Occupy London. It’s not Egypt, where people are throwing rocks at the military.”
Occupy Education — a coalition of Occupy, labor and community groups — designated March 1 as the National Student Day of Action. Students across the country tailored their demonstrations to address specific issues affecting their schools.
And even though the protest did not happen as planned, he said, “Project Fail” — which is what some students are now calling the walkout — achieved what it set out to do. “The goal of the walkout was to politicize the community and to start a dialogue,” he said. “I think it was a success. The community is engaged, not just about the response, but about the issues that we brought up.”