Scores of students at Mt. Zion High School are believed to be facing disciplinary action, after walking out of class last month, to hold a rally — on school grounds — in honor of slain Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin.
According to some social networking sites, students are posting that they could be facing suspension from school, or that they will have to write a three-page essay, as a result of their actions.
Monique Drewry, principal at Mt. Zion High School, declined to elaborate on those claims. “I’m not comfortable talking about this issue, and the discipline is irrelevant to what the students’ intentions were,” said Drewry. “The situation is being handled in house.”
She added that the protest, which occurred Monday, March 26, was not authorized by the school, and the students took it upon themselves to stage a rally.
A video posted on YouTube shows dozens of students, reportedly at Mt. Zion High, walking out of the school building and into the streets, carrying signs that read: “I’m Trayvon Martin Am I Next,” wearing hoodies like the one Martin wore when he was shot and killed, and chanting, “Justice for Trayvon.” The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office is seen in the video redirecting traffic and keeping control of the demonstration.
One student in the video said he was moved by the situation and was brought to tears, and hopes that people will support the student movement. Another, carrying a sign and wearing an all-black hoodie, yelled out, “Am I not allowed to walk, too — Am I next?”
Drewry said she has not seen the video, and that she understands that students have a passionate view about Martin’s case, but added that she did not agree with how it was handled. “The school likes to voice views and concerns in a more constructive way,” she said. “We teach our students morals and values, and I’m proud when students exercise what they’re taught.”
On Feb. 26, Martin, 17, an African-American male in Sanford, Fla., was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic American, and volunteer neighborhood watch coordinator. Media reports have indicated that Martin was walking back to his home in a private, gated community when Zimmerman — while contacting the Sanford Police Department to report Martin's allegedly suspicious behavior — began following him. Soon afterward, there was a confrontation that ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin. Martin was unarmed, carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea.
Zimmerman told police Martin had attacked him, and the shooting was in self-defense. Martin's death and the circumstances surrounding it have received international attention, and have led to several civil rights protests across the U.S.
Principals at two other high schools — Jonesboro and Mundy’s Mill — agreed that the way students at Mt. Zion High handled the situation was not the best approach. “We encourage our students to stay in school and handle a protest in a more appropriate fashion, instead of walking out of school,” said William Green, principal at Mundy’s Mill High.
“We don’t teach our students to seek justice by violating rules,” added Stephanie Johnson, principal at Jonesboro High. “We know this [case] is a situation that hits closely to home for most students, but there is a peaceful way to handle things without cutting into educational time.”
Green said plans are currently in the works to help students organize a more appropriate rally in support of Martin. He has been holding meetings with the student leadership team at his school to come up with ideas for a more “civilized” rally. “I should have something by the end of the week,” said Green. “Students seem to be more interested in doing something on the weekend, so it will not disrupt school hours.”
At Jonesboro High, according to Johnson: “Our Mock Trial team is working on letters to send to Florida. Students will write letters about laws they feel that were broken in Martin’s case.”