Armed with handwritten signs and shouting anti-Donald Trump chants, 282 Boston Public Schools students pushed in their chairs Monday afternoon and walked out of their classrooms.
The walkout, planned last week, was the students’ way of standing up against a Donald Trump presidency and what they see as his “white supremacist” affiliations.
Boston Public Schools is made up predominantly of minority students. Only 14 percent of the student body is white. Latino and black students make up most of the student population with 42 percent and 32 percent respectively, according to district demographic data.
“Donald J. Trump will be the next president of the United States and we have the right to protest and stand together against the inexcusable statements he has made about, and the harmful policies he promises to enact against, immigrants, Muslims, black Americans, the disabled, the LGBTQ+ community and women,” organizers wrote on a Facebook page publicizing the protest.
Students demanded state and city officials denounce Trump’s appointment of alt-right spokesman Steve Bannon and condemn “rising white supremacist movements.” They pushed for continued access and support for public education and protections for vulnerable students and their families — particularly for undocumented immigrants.
Seventeen percent of Boston Public Schools students were born outside the U.S., according to data provided by Daniel O’Brien, school department spokesman.
“We do not track the number of undocumented students in Boston Public Schools because we do not ask student status,” he said. “But we do have 9,751 current students whose country of birth is not the United States out of 56,592 total students.”
It is the plight of those students, LGBTQ students and others that motivated students to carry out the walkout against the wishes of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and despite threats from Boston Public Schools officials that they would be marked absent.
“We issued a letter to all BPS families over the weekend telling students that they would be marked absent if they participated in the walkout today,” he said. “Individual schools may or may not impose additional penalties if they choose.”
Students convened first at Boston Common for a rally before marching on the State House and finally to Boston City Hall.
The itinerary on the event Facebook page listed a meeting with Walsh, but a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said he had no plans to meet with students. Walsh said students should focus on their education and trust that there would be opportunities to together as a city and country outside of school hours.
“Every time there’s an issue, students can’t walk out of school,” Walsh said in a statement. “Many of these young people leaving class are going to be future leaders. I think that the best way of advancing causes is to stay in class and continue to get a good education.”