Early this morning my daughter and I drove my neighbor’s son to his detention at Pennridge High School. Pennridge is located in Perkasie, PA about ten minutes south of Quakertown and fifteen minutes west of Doylestown, the county seat of Bucks County. My passenger was one of the 225 Pennridge High School students who walked out of school as part of the March 14th National Walk Out to honor the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The school district’s decision to punish the students who walked out of school instead of participating in an officially sanctioned “Remembrance Assembly,” turned a local student-led action into a national story.
Asked why 225 students decided to walk out of school instead of taking part in the Remembrance Assembly, Pennridge Senior, Jayson Badal told the Morning Call,
This whole movement was about honoring the victims by bringing about change…We thought we needed to do something and we needed to make a statement.
And make a statement they did.
This morning’s detention was the second of six Saturdays set aside for the #Pennridge225. Last Saturday’s detention produced a video of the students conducting an in-detention sit-in on the floor of the school’s cafeteria. This Saturday did not produce a viral video. However, it seems that the School District’s plan for several weeks of rolling detentions, has extended opportunities for students and their supporters to begin to build a progressive network in an area of Bucks County went for Trump by ten points in 2016, but that is undergoing some of the political demographic shifts seen in Montgomery County over the last few election cycles.
Like last week, a group of about 30 community members, students, and parents showed up at Pennridge at 7:30 in the morning with donuts, snacks, and placards announcing their support of the students and their call for an end to gun violence. About a half-dozen, MAGA-branded Trumpsters gathered across the street from supporters, but their pro-AR-15 signs and occasional attempts at patriotic song felt awkward in the context of such positive community support of students who are in the process of reshaping the national discourse on gun control.
I was pleased to bump into Will Bunch from Philly.com who, in true form, was already interviewing supporters by the time my bundled-up six-year-old and I had dropped off our neighbor’s son and made our way to the designated protest space. While the thought of an early morning Saturday detention is no teenager’s idea of a good time, it seems that many of the students that emerged from detention at 10 am had only deepened their resolve to continue their activism. “I didn’t consider it a punishment,”15-year-old Emma Hawkins told Bunch. “I consider it a badge of honor.”
As my daughter and I walked back to our car with our teenage neighbor, we overheard multiple conversations among students and between students and their parents about their plan to head to the Doylestown #MarchForOurLives, joining high school students from Central Bucks who have organized Bucks Students Demand Action.