California High School Compelled Students to Protest

Ashley Thorne

Today in the San Francisco Chronicle Debra J. Saunders makes an excellent point about last week’s March 4 protests: while they were supposedly a complaint about shortchanges to education, the protests themselves brought education to a halt. Ultimately, Saunders wrote, “The event showed how little educators and students value education.” 

She quotes Ian Glazman-Schillinger, a freshman student at Oceana High in Pacifica, California, who aptly called the protest a “temper tantrum” and said he had no desire to participate in it. But Oceana High School required all students to be involved in activism on March 4.

We have a copy of the letter that went out to all parents of Oceana students. It informed parents that “The Oceana staff has decided to change its regular school schedule on March 4th and participate in public education activities on this day,” and “we want Oceana students to be a part of the events.” The letter gave parents the opportunity to sign a permission slip for their child to take part in off-campus activities. Students without such permission, it said, “will be involved in activities at school.” Nowhere in the letter were there provisions to choose not to participate in the protests. It says, “Everyone will return to school by mid-morning. The remainder of the day will be filled with educational workshops on the budget crisis and the political process.” One of those “educational workshops” turned out to be a session in which students were strongly exhorted to either call or write a letter to their legislator.  

The March 4 demonstrations really were a temper tantrum in that they were loud, close-minded, and laughably self-contradictory. The case of the coercion at Oceana provides a perhaps emblematic glimpse of the activism required of students. Perhaps the only thing worse than observing a temper tantrum is being forced to throw one.  

See the NAS article “March Forth” for more background on the nationwide campus protests. 

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