HYATTSVILLE – Students from schools around Prince George’s County walked out of their classrooms Friday protesting the election and divisive policies of President-Elect Donald Trump. Parkdale, Northwestern, Central and Suitland high school students walked out of their classrooms Friday between 11:30 a.m. and noon to protest the election of Trump and to stand in solidarity […]
HYATTSVILLE – Students from schools around Prince George’s County walked out of their classrooms Friday protesting the election and divisive policies of President-Elect Donald Trump.
Parkdale, Northwestern, Central and Suitland high school students walked out of their classrooms Friday between 11:30 a.m. and noon to protest the election of Trump and to stand in solidarity with minority groups.
Students from Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School also planned a protest, but were not permitted to leave the building, according to social media accounts.
Earlier last week, students across the county circulated messages on social media, calling for students, countywide, to walk out of their classes on Friday and congregate at the Tanger Outlets in National Harbor or, alternatively, in College Park.
However, the size of Friday’s walkouts may have been stunted after numerous robocalls to homes from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) administration and individual school principals threatened unexcused absences and other punishments for participation.
PGCPS learned of plans for Friday’s walkouts and released a letter from Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell stating the event was not organized by the school system.
“We take no position on the spirit or intent of the walkout; however, the event does raise serious student safety concerns. Leaving school grounds unaccompanied may cause harm to students’ personal well-being. Please note that students who are absent from class due to the walkout will be marked unexcused,” the letter reads.
Maxwell also wrote that the school system is aware that many students have strong feelings about this election and is working on helping them deal with those feelings.
“We have encouraged faculty and staff to guide students towards safe outlets of expression that do not disrupt the school day. PGCPS officials have been in contact with several local organizations about facilitating a youth-led conversation in the coming weeks for the broader community,” the letter reads.
Yesterday, school administration notified students at Wise that they could wear patriotic colors to school, which differs from school dress code, instead of joining in the walkout. Oxon Hill’s student government association also shared messages against the walkout, saying the school would find other ways to allow students to talk about the election.
Malcolm Nickens, a Wise student, said school leadership did not allow the walkout to move forward and encouraged students to wear red, white and blue instead. But students resisted, he said.
“Some students, including myself, did not exactly like that, so we came today dressed in all black. When we got to school, there were rumors speculating that we were supposed to have some type of gathering at noon. When that happened, we all expected it to be nice and peaceful, but that was not the case. It was more riot-like,” he said.
Videos shared on social media during the event at Wise showed hundreds of students gathered in the main hall of the school, holding signs and shouting profanities against the president-elect. Video also showed students being escorted out of the crowd by resource officers.
Student Maya McLin said the students were protesting Trump’s election and “innocent black people being murdered.”
Another student, Donnell, who only gave his first name for fear of retaliation from the school, said the protest was because people were upset over Trump’s election and that some students “decided to start something” and were escorted out by police.
Khouri Lassiter, who said she was one of the student organizers of Wise’s protest, said things got out of hand “because students weren’t protesting with a purpose. They were protesting just to protest, without any meaning behind it.”
At Parkdale and Northwestern, protests remained peaceful, with students standing along the road holding signs and the flags of several Latin American countries.
Ayotide Bello, senior class president at Parkdale, said in a video posted to Twitter that their protest was not about Trump’s election but the rhetoric he uses.
“This is what democracy looks like: having our students here, during class time, standing up for what they believe in. Not because Donald Trump is currently president, but we are standing in solidarity against what he is saying,” she said.
Earlier last week, on Tuesday students from High Point High School in Beltsville walked out of their classrooms and blocked traffic on Powder Mill Road in a similar protest. Students in Montgomery County have continued protests at several different schools throughout the week, while students at the University of Maryland staged a protest on campus Thursday.
Traevon Benjamin contributed to this report. Photo by Jim Davis.