About 200 students at Kingsbury High School staged a peaceful walkout Tuesday to call attention to the experiences and fears of the Memphis school’s sizable immigrant and minority populations in the Trump era.
At lunchtime, the students exited the school’s main building and walked to a separate auditorium to hear testimonies from a handful of students. Several of the speakers talked about their experiences as immigrants. The walkout lasted about an hour, and students returned to their classrooms without incident.
The demonstration came almost two weeks after a significant portion of Kingsbury’s student body stayed home in solidarity with immigrants participating in “A Day Without Immigrants,” a national protest organized in response to President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration.
Here’s what three Kingsbury seniors said about Tuesday’s walkout:
- “The students who organized this protest today felt there was something that needs to be said and heard,” said Olivia Opp, 18. “It’s really important that I understand and am aware of everything going on, not only in the Hispanic/Latino community, but in the Muslim community, in the undocumented community. We all gathered in the auditorium and got to hear from students of different nationalities, from Honduran to African American to Mexican. That was powerful.”
- “I saw a big group going toward the auditorium with different flags,” said Yusuf Safi, 18. “There was a Honduran flag, a Salvadorian flag, a Mexican flag, all marching toward the auditorium. Everyone was calm and organized. It was pretty amazing. What I saw today showed me that when it comes to being serious, students at Kingsbury know how to act about something they care about. The protest was very heartfelt. A couple of stories, personal stories that students told us, hit me deep. One student said that her father got deported. Her story will stay with me.”
- “Today I think we saw a group of people standing up for their rights,” said Amber Jones, 17. “It was interesting to see people talking about what they are going through. One girl talked about how she is afraid of losing her sister if she gets deported. I think this protest could impact Memphis in a good way because it shows our diversity. It was amazing to see the school come together as one, even though we’re all different. We want to show our school leaders that.”
Shelby County Schools issued a statement late in the day calling the walkout a “peaceful demonstration.”
“We respect students’ freedom of expression,” the statement said. “However, as educators, we are committed to help them be productive and voice their opinions without being disruptive or missing valuable instructional time. No matter what challenges students may be dealing with, schools are a safe place where teachers care about their education and well-being.”
— FOX13 Memphis (@FOX13Memphis) February 28, 2017
Happening NOW: Hundreds of Students just walked out of Kingsbury High chanting “Yes we can” in Spanish. pic.twitter.com/xeoeO3pj5k
— Jerry Askin WMC-TV (@JerryAskinWMC) February 28, 2017
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Shelby County Schools.