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Opinion – A case for civil disobedience

I’ve always been very proud of graduating from Hinkley High School.

A large school, with some 1,700 students when I attended, Hinkley is not always known for having the highest test results, graduation rates or even successful sports teams.

But as a graduate from the school I can say that hardly matters the moment a diploma touches your hand and you walk across a podium, victorious.

Attendance for classes can be especially troubling at this Aurora, Colo., school. On Monday, classes probably felt another downward jolt in attendance.

And I couldn’t be prouder.

As four teachers from the school faced potential layoffs with an April 5 agenda item to be voted on by the Aurora Public Schools District Board of Education, 30 students saw it fit to stage a sit-in at one of Hinkley’s hallways as a form of protest against the potential firings.

These sit-ins were on Monday. The decision came the following day. That Tuesday, the four teachers found out they would keep their jobs after a 5-2 vote by the Board rejected the proposed item.

But the bigger story here is the Hinkley students. Not since my graduation in May 2008 had I felt such pride for my alma mater, or better yet, for its students.

These kids walked out, some 100 students, after, as it appears, the sit-in students were suspended. They decided to spread and transform the in-school demonstration into a public protest.

As soon as I heard this, I turned to one of my good friends, who also attended Hinkley but graduated from a different high school, and asked:

“Is there a better reason for getting suspended than for walking out or protesting?”

The signs and the cheers were probably encouraging for other students who were not participating, but perhaps frightening to the Hinkley administration. Walkouts? Sit-ins? Protests? What the hell is going on?

You’re not supposed to do this until you get to college, Hinkley students. Duh. Everyone knows that. Especially those administrators who probably watched in horror as their students went beyond the call of duty (being a student) to displaying true civic fervor over their education.

In other words, these students decided not to attend class as a form of civil disobedience.

It’s called standing up for your beliefs. Standing up for what one may think is wrong. For what one may even see as unfair, and thanks to the First Amendment, these students can peacefully assemble to carry out their prerogative: they’re students, but on a day like Monday, they stood together like citizens, and their rights are undeniable.

You cannot teach this life lesson in a class.

“I think that in a way it was a good idea, they had good intentions,” said one a current Hinkley student, a female senior. “But if they wanted to make a real difference they should have gone to the state capital and should not have disrupted class time.”

The student went on to say that she thought that students need to understand that although it is wrong, it is how the educational system works.

Others are claiming that the students simply participated as away to get out of class. Maybe some did that. But, please. I was a Hinkley student. We don’t need an excuse to decide when ditching a class is the right choice.

I asked Tony Mitchell, a fellow alum who also graduated in 2008 and now attends CU-Colorado Springs what he thought about the situation.

“Pretty bitchin’,” he said. Tony’s an insightful guy, so moments later he gave me another, less crude but equally interesting response:

“Teachers need to be stood up for, especially in high school, and if students are the ones standing up for them, things are pretty bad.”

I also heard reports on broadcast stations that perhaps teachers had encouraged the students. Now, if this is true, it would make the student’s actions significantly less admirable.

But either way, the student’s actions remain a striking illustration of civic disobedience by young people.

If only I still wrote for the school’s newspaper, The Talon. This is going to make one helluva story.

I ask one question: how much of the Board members decision was influenced by the actions of the Hinkley students? Did they even consider it?

Now there’s a thought.

About Esteban L. Hernandez

Reporter in Connecticut.


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