Students Walk Out; The Adults Follow

Paul Bass PhotosHundreds of New Haven high school students walked out of classes Monday to a downtown “sanctuary” church — with the support of school officials but very much on their own terms.

The students came from Wilbur Cross, Hillhouse, and Common Ground High Schools to support Nelson Pinos, a factory worker from the Annex neighborhood who took refuge at the First & Summerfield Church across form the Green 294 days ago rather than heed a federal order to return to his native Ecuador. His three children, including Cross junior Kelly Pinos, attend city public schools.

School administrators decided that they would support the students by working to ensure their safety, according to Board of Ed spokesman Will Clark. They deemed the walkouts a “field trip” and arranged for buses to ferry Cross students to the church.

Rather than wait to ride buses, many of the students emerging from Wilbur Cross headed downtown on foot ... 

... marching down Orange on the sidewalk, then taking to the streets on Grove, walking amid traffic (as shown in these two videos taken by Lucy Gellman).

Eighty-five Common Ground students took the 243 CT Transit bus to the church, where Yale and Hillhoue students joined the Cross students. (Simultaneous rallies were organized at Southern Connecticut State University and Wesleyan.) Rally co-organizer and emcee Vanesa Suarez (pictured) of Unidad Latina en Acción told the First & Summerfield crowd that school administrators at Cross “harassed us” by trying to have the students take the buses. “It’s not a ‘field trip,’” she declared. “What’s happening here is real. ... The students have the right to take to the streets and protest.”

“This is our movement. [Adults] have to support us,” Yale junior Larissa Martinez, whose family came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2013 and remains undocumented, told the crowd.

The Board of Ed’s Clark noted that the schools are legally responsible for students’ safety during the school day. He said the district has consistently supported student actions like these and strive for a “positive collaboration” with students when they choose to speak out. He and other administrators said they were supporting the students, not trying to harass or thwart them.

Suarez waded into the crowd to offer the mic to students like Cross junior Annyeliris De Jesus, who declared: “My friend Kelly deserves to be with her dad!”

New Haven activist Norman Clement offered the students a history lecture different from what they might hear in the classroom. “No one is illegal on stolen land,” which the United States is, he told them. He noted that Pinos is “indigenous to these territories” and said Pinos has as much right as anyone to live here. “My people had no borders,” said Clement, a descendant of the Penobscot tribe and designated Quinnipiac “confederate.” He urged students to join an Oct. 13 march to Fair Haven demanding that a school on Grand Avenue no longer be named after Christopher Columbus, “that rapist, that murderer! He was an idiot; he got lost!”

Nelson Pinos watched from the sanctuary of the church’s front landing (where by policy, immigrant agents don’t tread) as the students left the scene. “It is pretty emotional for me to support of all these kids,” he said. “I know a lot of them. They know the pain. That’s why they’re out here supporting me.”

With cops protecting their rear flank, students marched east on Elm Street. Speaking into a megaphone from the passenger side of an accompanying car, Suarez urged them to continue to Orange Street.

But chants drowned her out. The students led themselves to the steps of City Hall. Suarez and other adults joined them there, where chanting continued:

What do we want?
Nelson’s freedom!
When do we want it?
And if we don’t get it?
Shut it down!

Unofficial school chaperones like Alan Gibbons (pictured) hung back. Gibbons, an ESL teacher at Cross, pronounced the students’ action an “excellent” learning opportunity.

Before marching back to the church, the students stopped in front of the U.S. District Court for more speeches and chants. Suarez urged the crowd to lobby New Haven’s mayor and alders to pass an ordinance officially declaring New Haven a sanctuary city.

Common Ground High’s staff youth organizer Z Bell (pictured) listened from a distance. Bell and other school officials had helped coordinate the students’ CT Transit bus trip, provided them Subway sandwiches for lunch, and contacted their parents to let them know where their kids were. “I wanted their parents to know they were safe,” Bell said. “I wanted to respect student agency.”

And, Bell said, “I wanted to support Nelson Pinos.”

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posted by: 1644 on September 20, 2018  3:24pm

1.  New Haven is not stolen land.  The Quinnipiac sold it to the proprietors in return for trade goods and a military alliance against the Pequot, who had nearly exterminated the Quinnipiac.

2. Any news on how to close the remaining $8 million gap in the NHPS budget?

posted by: Noteworthy on September 20, 2018  3:52pm

These are the same students, 70 and 80% of whom don’t meet state standards for basic learning. They should walk out to protest their sorry education and performance.

posted by: BevHills730 on September 20, 2018  4:43pm

The NHI is going to let Noteworthy slander New Haven youth? He knows nothing about the students who walked out.

posted by: OhHum on September 20, 2018  5:47pm

The students learn that on a nice day in September it’s fun to walk or ride to the Green, chant slogans and make each other feel good about having provided some social justice for the benefit of Nelson. If they so desire after the rant, they could indulge in some drugs on the New Haven Green or watch sex workers perform in the open,although the performances have not been booked for the Green yet. Put an emphasis on yet. However, if you’re into potty sex you can watch individuals urinate and defecate on the Green. These are just a couple of the social justice activities in New Haven. I apologize for digressing, back to the students. If the faculty feel that this activity was more important then the curriculum at Wilbur Cross H.S. perhaps the City should open yet another school. Social Justice H.S. What do you think Supt. Birks? More “field trips”. Just declare a “General Field Trip” school year for students that want to participate and save 8 million by bagging the unneeded teachers. As for SCSU, the self proclaimed Social Justice University, I delight in watching your faculty leave and your enrollment tank. The new President is doing a marvelous job. The school is irrelevant.

posted by: newhavenishome on September 20, 2018  5:55pm

1644-well said

Just wondering where NHPS draws the line as to what causes students are allowed to protest during the school day? For that reason, this should not have happened during school hours.

I wish Mr. Pinos well and hope he gets to stay with his family.

posted by: RealML on September 20, 2018  6:29pm

You may believe that Quinnipiac land wasn’t stolen but because they were paid a couple of hachets and some beads don’t make it so. Native peoples did not even have a concept of what it was to sell land. The relationship to power held by white settlers with guns is what allowed them to steal the land. Quinnipiac were the first to be placed on reservations., and after what happened to the Pequots in Mystic they realized they were probably next. All of this land is stolen land.

posted by: 1644 on September 20, 2018  6:39pm

Bev: In this country, truth is a defense to libel and slander.  What Noteworthy said is true:  most NHPS students don’t meet state standards for learning.  One can blame the students or the teachers or the administrators, but the majority of NHPS students are not meeting the basics of reading and math.  (BTW, the Connecticut Supreme Court blamed the students and their home environment, i.e., their parents.)

posted by: Not Worthy on September 20, 2018  7:39pm

The only real moral question here is whether Nelson Pinos should be deported from this country or allowed to stay and enjoy his freedom. The young people who joined today’s protest joined the majority of people of conscience in maintaining that the answer is, let him stay. Their courage should be applauded. It’s shameful that some commenters cannot even face up to the question.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on September 20, 2018  7:58pm

The students learned a good deal about justice, organizing, political agency and solidarity that their suburban peers might be missing out on.  Maybe it’s the state standards that are too limited to capture this kind of learning.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 20, 2018  8:51pm

Rally co-organizer and emcee Vanesa Suarez (pictured) of Unidad Latina en Acción told the First & Summerfield crowd that school administrators at Cross “harassed us” by trying to have the students take the buses. “It’s not a ‘field trip,’” she declared. “What’s happening here is real. ... The students have the right to take to the streets and protest.”

De oppresso liber

liberate the oppressed

posted by: Sophie Hatter on September 20, 2018  9:18pm

I think a point being missed here is that NHPS teachers and administrators did not make a poor call (or any call) in “allowing” their students to walk out. These students did not ask for permission. They took to the streets because someone in our community is being forced to live in a church in order to remain here in New Haven with his family, because they and their classmates cannot be expected to learn when they are afraid for their families’ safety, and because budget cuts are being made right in the classroom where it most affects their learning. They have the right to assemble and speak freely. We should all be standing with Nelson and every undocumented person in our city.

posted by: Xavier on September 20, 2018  9:20pm

I am sure UNIDAD LATINA is not manipulating the students. Perhaps the Yale students have grown tired Lugo and company?

posted by: Dennis Serf on September 20, 2018  10:02pm

$18K per student per year and this is what we get? As a taxpayer, can I get a refund? God help us!

Dennis Serfilippi

posted by: TheMadcap on September 20, 2018  10:38pm

Oh look, here come the bitter adults in the comments. Anyways, good job kids.

posted by: observer1 on September 21, 2018  6:06am

Children are expected to act like children. Needs or pain require communication to adults that there is a problem which needs solving by adults; change of diapers, food or shelter. When these children become adults, they will understand that crying and creating a fuss do not solve problems, only indicate that the child has a problem. The adult determines the magnitude of the problem and the best solution. The laws of the United States are very specific relative to immigration and the penalties applied to folks here in violation of those laws. The adult way to solve this problem is to elect a congress to write a law(s) that will change the way immigrants are treated. This requires a thought process which takes time and work. Like most children, this mob did what is easy in a search for meaningless instant gratification. While you are doing your feel good shallow stuff, ICE is still rounding up and deporting record numbers of people. I hope you had a good time spending and wasting taxpayer money (teachers not teaching and cops not working on real crime) while accomplishing nothing. If you want to demonstrate, do it on your own time. Not while my tax dollars which are being spent to educate you are being wasted.

posted by: kelly Pinos on September 21, 2018  7:19am

@ Noteworthy yeah half those kids have 4.0 gpas like Me ! I have a 4.124 Gpa , Were just fighting for whats right, please do not assume, i just want my father out !

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on September 21, 2018  8:05am

The number of adults here taking cheap shots at kids exercising their First Amendment right to protest and probably really exercising their free speech for the first time in their lives is pitiful. How sad your life must be to denigrate these young people because you don’t agree with their politics or feel a need to take a cheap shot at the state of New Haven Public Schools or the ongoing drug problem (which I assure you is not exclusive to New Haven).

That you lack the courage to actually speak in person to these kids, and would rather take cowardly pot shots from your keyboard is the ultimate advertisement for your political ideology.

posted by: Atwater on September 21, 2018  8:16am

Observer1: Demonstrating, protests, civil disobedience are all a part of the American tradition. Read your history. This nation was founded first by protest and then by revolution. Protest is the natural reflex of the population (or a segment thereof) against a perceived wrong. If not for protest we might not have had the Civil Rights Act, Womens’ Suffrage, fair labor laws, etc. This demonstration was not a waste of time or of money (I’m really tired of people using the “you’re wasting MY tax money on…”) it was a worthy demonstration of solidarity with an individual who faces, what some might label, arbitrary enforcement of draconian immigration laws. Protest is just one facet of any movement to change a law or policy, but it is an important one and should not be diminished.

Any “kid” that thinks it is necessary to get involved in a cause and to agitate and protest is worthy of our praise and respect. I would gladly have one of these kids then ten mindless zombies who do nothing but play video games, consume junk food and update their social media accounts. This city and the country needs more active, involved and engaged citizens.

My hope is that the students who are of voting age vote this November. And that their parents and teachers continue to encourage them to remain engaged with the world around them. Good job!

Open borders!!!

posted by: BevHills730 on September 21, 2018  8:39am

I guess Noteworthy and 1644 failed statistics and should probably start taking remedial courses.  1644’s “truth” relies on making inferences about a non-random sample from a population.  Perhaps 1644 is an example of how Yale fails students. 

Of course, their objectives are to slander students regardless of the soundness in their arguments.  This is one of the many reasons that Kelly Pinos is writing an op-ed in the NYTs, while Noteworthy and 1644 fill comments sections.

posted by: ElmCityLover on September 21, 2018  9:12am

There is def educational value in teaching these students to exercise their rights. However, I’m concerned that students of different political views may feel ostracized. I’m hoping I’m being cynical but I doubt a pro-life or gun rights march would get the same support from the school system.

Morally, the only answer is that Mr. Pinos should stay. However, there is a political question in whether changing or ignoring our laws is the solution.

posted by: wendy1 on September 21, 2018  9:23am

Go see Fahrenheit 11/9 at the Criterion.  I totally support the kids in any of their endeavors.  They are the victims of shitty American politics, an evil and rigged game.  Read Matthew Desmond Sunday NYTIMES article about the working poor.

posted by: beaverhills on September 21, 2018  9:28am

I am proud to live in a city where our young people exercise their rights to draw attention to injustice. Protesting does make a difference and also develops students as engaged citizens. A win-win for New Haven!

posted by: Noteworthy on September 21, 2018  9:35am

Sure - they’re all 4.0 or better students. Got it. I guess protesting after school - doing it on their time, consuming their resources and not disrupting school, traffic and causing school administrators to abandon their jobs in order to keep the kids safe was not an option. These kids and anybody else can protest all they like - it’s protected speech and I’m fully supportive of the activity not the message. Those of you who want to conflate my comments into something I did not say can do so as well. It’s your right but it’s not accurate.

posted by: cunningham on September 21, 2018  10:28am

“I support their right to protest, as long as they’re otherwise flawless and do so in a way where no one has to see or hear or be at all inconvenienced.”

posted by: observer1 on September 21, 2018  11:07am

@ Atwater

You evidently pick and choose the laws you want enforced and those that can be ignored. Instead of being an apologist for a youthful mob, you should get involved to politically change the laws you disagree with. Protest is fine, just do it on your time, and your dime. I am paying for these kids to receive an education, and I do not want that money wasted. I also hope that November radically changes both the house and the senate, because I am not sure our country can survive if the people in there now stay in power.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on September 21, 2018  11:14am

“doing it on their time, consuming their resources and not disrupting school, traffic “

Had they done that, so quiet and cooperative, would it have had the same effect?  Would we all be here discussing it, aware of the action and what it demanded?  How many quieter actions have been held and ignored on Nelson’s behalf this year?

posted by: Atwater on September 21, 2018  11:44am

Observer: Yes, in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau, MLK, Jr., et al. I do choose to ignore certain laws which seem to violate the universal and inalienable rights of humanity. Among those rights should be the right to migrate from one land mass to another with little regulation from the state. If our resources and collective wealth can freely move from one “nation” to another then we should be able to move just as freely. Open and free markets require open and free migration.With certain practical considerations in mind,we should endeavor to create open borders among the nations of North America. That is where I stand and what I try to work for. And, I can support protesters and work for progressive change simultaneously.

Your prior comment seems to illustrate you do not really understand the purpose of public demonstration because if you did, you would know that the more disruptive they are the more effective they are.

Also, your tax money has already been wasted. One student protest is not going to change that, at all. Perhaps, being such an irritated tax payer, you and a few of your like minded peers should stage a protest. Tax protests were the birth pangs of our republic and New Haven residents do have a legitimate grievance against the City’s government and there should be more protests and strikes and other demonstrations.

More protests!!
Open borders!!

“And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”-MLK, Jr.

posted by: boxerct on September 21, 2018  2:06pm

I’m happy to see that “Civics”, or “Social Studies” as it was called in my day is being taught in New Haven Public Schools.  Far too many young people are being taught apathy and dogma at home when it comes to the political process, and if our schools don’t step up, these kids will never learn how important it is to stand up for what’s right in society.  Good job students!

posted by: 1644 on September 21, 2018  4:15pm

Bev:  My truth relies on the non-random, non-sample data available on the state Department of Education website.

Ms. Pinos:  Grades vary from school to school.  Standardized tests like the SAT were developed so college admissions officers could evaluate students’ aptitude between schools.  Most New Haven schools, like Cross, have far less than half of their students meeting the state standards when tested.  If more than half of your classmates have GPA’s over 4.0,  but many of those same students have low SAT scores, the grading standards are too low.  For example, I hope your use of “were” vice “we’re” was a result of haste and excitement, rather than a failure of your teachers to teach you the difference.

Atwater:  Yes, law breaking gets attention.  The riots of the 1960’s, however, resulted in the election of “law and order” candidate Nixon.  Regardless, yes, it’s far better than video games.

posted by: chrisbutler on September 23, 2018  7:48am

observer1: “Protest is fine, just do it on your time, and your dime. I am paying for these kids to receive an education, and I do not want that money wasted.”

This is literally the definition of entitled, but I bet you’re proud of how you took down these ‘entitled children’.

observer1:  “teachers not teaching and cops not working on real crime”

It must be nice to live in a magical fairytale world where everything is perfect and things function exactly as intended at all times, unless acted upon by an outside force that you disagree with.

Take a few steps back and ask why teachers exist, or what ‘real crime’ needs to be stopped, and ask yourself this in a way that demands a thoughtful answer rather than just parroting back the “not on the taxpayer’s dime” rhetoric that completely ignores the fact that by and large teachers aren’t teaching effectively and police are not policing effectively.

If only we were all as smart as you, able to ignore our emotions for the ‘bigger picture’ of the state/nation… then we could all live in the perfect utopia you created for us in your time doing politics the ‘right way’ for all this time that you must have been voting and making such smart decisions that the rest of us clearly don’t understand.

By the way, where is that perfect utopia? Because all I see is a dysfunctional facade in place of where our healthy society should be, and people like you seem to have all the answers and yet you allowed us to end up here?

Of course, you wouldn’t have done any fooling, emotionally-satisfying protesting…. So why didn’t you vote better? Or failing to actually take action yourself, why didn’t you write more bitter comments that would have shown us the light, sooner?

posted by: concerned_neighbor on September 23, 2018  9:01pm

I saw the protest and I’m glad that they are exercising their freedom of expression. That said, I saw two other sides of the protest that made me chuckle: (1) something like 15 cops, including all the motorcycle cops, watching the protest while gridlock resulted at the corner of chapel and church while the students were on the steps of the federal courthouse. You’d think they would be directing traffic, but this is New Haven. (2) About 30 or 40 students sat, backpacks and all, in front of the amistad memorial and along the building up to the new location of Starbucks. Their neatly lettered signs (clearly made in art class) were rolled up in the trash or were pushed down the street by the wind. Another 20 or 30 students were inside Starbucks, glued to smartphones. I guess it was a ditch day for them.

posted by: robn on September 24, 2018  6:06am

This seems less like a student organized walk out and more like an adult organized walkout. Besides the fact that either way, they should stay in school during school hours, why are the schools letting outside agitators infiltrate student activities for political purposes? I’d be appalled if a right wing group did this and am equally unhappy that no matter what the message. There should be an investigation about who is promoting this from outside.

posted by: rbmurphy on September 24, 2018  9:01pm

1644: Apostrophes are not used to make initialisms plural (“GPA’s”), nor are they used form plurals of numbers (“1960’s”). Just thought you’d like to know, especially since you’ve expressed such concern for a child’s grammar. If you’re honestly concerned about the “failure” of NHPS teachers, you are more than welcome to attend my English class. We’re reviewing apostrophes next week, actually.

Well done, students.

posted by: OhHum on September 25, 2018  7:47am

Perhaps next week you’ll teach them to proof read before publishing.
...” nor are they used form plurals of numbers…”
Or you can come to my art class and I’ll teach you how to draw.

posted by: 1644 on September 25, 2018  10:22am

rbmurphy: My high school copy of Harbrace College Handbook, section 15d, and Merriam-Webster differ with you on the use of apostrophes.

I believe the Chicago Manual of Style supports your position.

Johns Hopkins agrees with you most of the time:

Some other opinions: (citing NYT)