Shortly before second period ended, a handful of student organizers and supporters gathered outside Allen High School waiting to see how many students would respond to the call to walk out of classes and march to the Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King memorial to demand change in the Allentown School District. At first, only a handful of students emerged from the front doors of the school, causing concerns among organizers. It didn’t take long for those concerns to be put to rest as dozens, then well over a hundred students walked out of classes and gathered outside for a rally before marching to the King memorial.
A similar process was taking place across town and Dieruff High School. However, according to reports from inside the school, students at Dieruff were warned over the school’s PA system that they would face discipline including the possibility of suspension or expulsion if they left the school. According to one report, security guards at the school were allegedly told that if they let students leave the school, they would be fired. Some students did manage to get out of Dieruff and join Allen students for the march, but the numbers were much smaller because some students returned to classes, fearing retribution from the school administration. Others were reportedly physically prevented from leaving.
The march from Allen High School proceeded down Hamilton Street from 17th Street in an orderly, if high energy, fashion. At least a dozen students took the role of safety officers or marshals, making sure students stayed on the sidewalks and stayed together as a group. As the march proceeded down Hamilton Street, many motorists honked their horns in support, shouting words of encouragement in English and Spanish. As promised, the Allentown police served as escorts for the march, blocking off intersections for short periods of time to allow all students to cross busy streets together.
As the March reached 4th Street, marchers from Allen and Dieruff merged and walked the last few blocks to the King memorial together. As the march reached the King Memorial, it was remarkable how many students participated in the walkout (see pictures below).
In front of the King statue, tables were set up for students to sign up for “classes” conducted by march organizers, community members, college students, and at least one professor from a nearby university. Some of the classes offered today included the College Experience, Life Experiences, Eastern Europe Experience, African History, Fearless Dialogue, and Physical Education. Two tents were set up to distribute water and snacks and organizers encouraged students to “get some food and water before classes begin.”
At 11am sharp, students dispersed to their classes around the King Memorial and into a park across the street. As of this posting, students were still in classes.
According to organizers, students will be given lunch at 1pm and then will return to classes until 2:50 pm at which time they will be dismissed.
Today’s walkout is being billed as the first day of a week of walkouts. Some students gathered at the King memorial said that they will only being walking out today. Others said they will be telling more of their friends to take part tomorrow and throughout the week. United Youth Party, the organization that has spearheaded today’s walkout, has promised a week of walkouts and “real” education in support of demanding changes in the Allentown School District.
Here are some pics of today’s events: