March 13, 2003
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Yellow Springs High School students Maggie Krabec, left, Jessica Northridge and Lilith Claire were among the many YSHS and McKinney School students who walked out of school Wednesday, March 5, in an antiwar protest.

Walkouts held at YSHS, McKinney and Antioch College—
Yellow Springs students protest war

A significant number of students from Yellow Springs High School, the McKinney School and Antioch College marched through the cold last week to oppose U.S. actions toward war in Iraq.

An estimated 75 to 100 middle school and high school students walked out of school at noon on Wednesday, March 5, to participate in a nationwide student strike known as “Books Not Bombs.” Students straggled out the school’s front door carrying antiwar signs along East Enon Road to the corner of Dayton Street, where they chanted for peace to passersby.

“The protest cemented our beliefs about the war, that it’s not the correct answer to what we’re facing in the Middle East,” high school student Lilith Claire said.

Even McKinney School language arts teacher Aurelia Blake joined student ranks to march on Wednesday, contributing signs from a peace rally in Washington.

School officials gave permission to students who had parental consent to leave school property and continue the protest march downtown, Principal John Gudgel said. A splinter group of 30–40 students, some with permission and some without, continued down Dayton Street to Limestone Street, across Mills Lawn and into town chanting spontaneous call-and-answer rounds such as, “Who are we? YSHS. What do we stand for? No war!”

YSHS seniors Jennifer Starbuck and Aurianna Tuttle organized the protest by word of mouth that morning after retrieving information on the Web about the nationwide effort, Starbuck said. The school made an announcement around 10 a.m. giving all students permission to participate during lunch, adding that leaving school property would require parental consent.

“I took a group of people who were just doing the lunchtime protest and brought them back to prove I didn’t rally to get out of school,” Starbuck said.

However, some of the students who chose to continue into town left without parental consent.

“I had no problem with them organizing a lunchtime demonstration on campus,” Gudgel said. “I respect the kids for expressing their views.”

But from a liability standpoint, the school is responsible for its students during the school day, and parents need to know where they are, he said.

“School rules for leaving campus without permission were applied,” Gudgel said.

Meanwhile, at 12:30 that same day on the Antioch College campus, 30 to 40 Antioch students gathered in front of Main Building for a moment of silence in solidarity with the March 5 antiwar efforts, said senior Robert Neifert, who organized the action on campus.

“We stood in solidarity with everybody who’s struggling to stop violence and everybody who’s going to be affected by it,” Neiffert said. “We had a moment of silence to think about our soldiers and the Iraqi people.”

Later that day, some of the same students led an hour-long protest march through classrooms and administrative offices, picking up one to two people from every room who joined the group. Even a few faculty members walked out of meetings and fell in step with the student demonstrators, Neiffert said.

“It’s been a collaborative process with a lot of students and a lot of faculty members on how to go about doing the most effective stuff on campus,” he said.

The college will host several speakers and a series of workshops and discussion groups Friday, March 14, to encourage debate and information sharing on the current political situation. Activities are open to people of all points of view, and high school students as well as students from other colleges have been invited to join the talks.

Starbuck hopes she and other high school students can also participate in discussions at Antioch as an extension of the action that took place last week.

“For people who didn’t get a chance to go to Washington, it’s a way to bring the protest home, which is just as important,” she said.

—Lauren Heaton