UPDATED! “They can’t suspend this many of us!” The student walkout at Cherry Hill High School East

UPDATE & MAJOR POLICY CHANGE 5:45pm: Principal Dennis Perry has just rescinded his earlier threat to withhold senior prom, senior trip, or graduation from students who engaged in disruption. This letter was just published on Cherry Hill Schools’ Facebook page. 

UPDATE: Superintendent of Cherry Hill Public Schools made this letter to parents public today.
UPDATE#2: There is a school board meeting tonight 7pm, Malberg Administration Building, 45 Ranoldo Terrace
UPDATE#3: This walkout is now national political news, with this post in The Hill


When I was in high school, there was a compulsory assembly; a 1972 presidential election mock debate between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, played by local party chairs. We were “the press,” asking questions. Two of us raised our hands with a question for “Nixon” – Would the Watergate break-in lead into the White House and the presidency? Nixon was irate, our classmates hadn’t heard of Watergate yet, and an administrator ordered us to stand down. We kept asking. The auditorium erupted in protest as a couple security guards removed us from the auditorium, out the door, and off school grounds. The next day, every kid knew what Watergate was, and we were promised if that happened again, there’d be a walkout.

That’s ancient history now, especially to teenagers who can’t fathom that anybody who lived through Watergate is even still alive. That’s just fine. Because this is all about them now. And we may be watching the beginnings of something of great power. Inspired by the righteous anger of surviving, grieving Parkland kids, teenagers are taking ownership of a fight for their safety. We didn’t organize this, and it’s not ours. It’s theirs.

Today, hundreds of students walked out of Cherry Hill High School East, the second straight day of protest at the school. They did this despite being threatened with suspensions. They walked out this morning and gathered outside on the track, which they walked 17 times around, in apparent recognition of the 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting. Philly Voice has video:

Today is part of a protest against the suspension of history teacher Timothy Locke, 59-year-old Iraq War veteran, who was suspended after raising concerns about school security in the wake of the school shooting massacre in Florida, which has moved so many students across Florida and the U.S. to action. Monday, principal Dennis Perry announced students who joined any “planned disruption” would be suspended. But as that announcement came over the speaker system, there were already students engaging in a sit-in in the hallways. He offered the chance to talk but quickly brought the hammer down, especially for seniors: Suspension, and the loss of the senior trip and prom.

In video of the students being threatened, one says, “If you suspend us, you won’t have a school.”

In Cherry Hill HS East, crackdowns and threats of discipline. But it’s important to know that colleges and universities, aware that a generation is finding its voice, are making it clear to the crop of seniors who may be leading these demonstrations that it may cost them prom, but it won’t cost them their college careers. Bravo, Rutgers:

PHOTO: Students walk the track 17 times for 17 dead (helicopter photo from Action News 6abc)

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