Thousands of students in Newark N.J., walked out of school last Friday afternoon in protest of the policies in the school district.
The protest was organized by the advocacy groups Newark Students Union and NJ Communities United in response to the district’s plans to designate eight schools as “turnaround” schools next school year.
Under the plan, teachers agree to work a longer school day and put in more time for professional development. Students say that more hours in schools could increase the dropout rate and cut into extracurricular activities time.
“The movement to restore our democracy will only continue to grow,” said Roberto Cabanas, lead organizer for NJ Communities United. “Our children’s future and the future of our public schools is at stake. With Governor [Chris] Christie at the helm, more and more of our public schools will be closed and turned over to charter school outfits that are more interested in profit than our children.”
Newark public schools remain under state control, and students feel that their schools are not getting a fair share of funding and that more money is going to charter schools in their communities.
“We are tired of being ignored, and we will not be suspended or intimidated by this administration any longer,” said NSU in a statement on social media. “They will not suspend thousands of students for exercising our rights. The community will not allow that to happen.”
Reports indicate students marched down Broad Street to City Hall, where they assembled, held signs and chanted. They also demonstrated outside the Peter W. Rodino Federal Office Building before heading to McCarter Highway.
The students delayed traffic at the beginning of the busy Memorial Day travel weekend.
Before the walkout, several students reported a tactic being used to prevent the students from demonstrating. Several schools were said to have planned lockdown drills at the time students were suppose to leave, in addition to making calls to parents.
“While the district supports our students’ right to express their opinions and concerns, we cannot support these actions when they disrupt the regular instructional day,” Newark Public Schools spokeswoman Brittany Parmley said in a statement. “The district remains committed to broadening opportunities for Newark’s students through expanded learning time and through creating additional professional development opportunities for teachers.”