Students March On City Hall

Paul Bass PhotoA hundred high school students hit the streets instead of classes Monday to demand more say in their education, including having student Board of Education members gain voting privileges.

Some of the demonstrators now face possible discipline for missing class.

The students — from High School in the Community, Wilbur Cross, Metropolitan Business Academy, High School in the Community, and Cooperative Arts — held a rally on the Green, then began marching through downtown as cops blocked traffic.

They were inspired by Donald Trump’s election to form a group called Fighters For Justice, said HSC senior Jeremy Cajigas (pictured), who organized the walkout ...

... along with Wilbur Cross senior Cowiya Arouna (who said she’s hoping to attend Barnard, Columbia or George Washington University next year). Cajigas said the students want to see more teachers of color in their classrooms and more black history beyond the fact “that we were slaves.”

The group turned from High Street onto Elm back toward the Green around 10 a.m. ...

... as cops separately sealed off Elm between York and High, where a CT Transit bus had collided with Evan Pinero’s Ford.

“I’m in my lane ... taking my wife to work,” Pinero said, when “this long-ass bus” wove into his lane.

Meanwhile, Black Lives Matters New Haven co-founder Sun Queen marched alongside the students onto the Green. “The youth is our revolution,” she said. “They are going to be our next alderman, our next mayor, our next police chief. We have to support them.”

Chanting “Hey hey/ Ho ho / Board of Ed/ has got to go!,” the students headed to to City Hall, where they gathered on the steps. New Haven Academy senior Wendy Marte read aloud the group’s list of demands. In addition to the request that the Board of Ed’s two elected non-voting student members be allowed to vote (“We must stop excluding the student voice!”), the demands include involving students in the search for a new superintendent of schools, diversifying the curriculum to include more black and Latino and history, taxing Yale more, equal funding for schools (“We need to see receipts, y’all!), and opposition to President Donald Trump’s education, health care and immigration policies. Click on the above video to hear Marte read the full list.

An hour later, on WNHH radio’s “Mayor Monday” program, Mayor Toni Harp said the protest reminded her of the time she and fellow Roosevelt University students walked out off campus in the early 1970s into downtown Chicago to demand passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also said she sees the value in their demand to allow student members to vote on Board of Ed matters. “The students have been very mature,” Harp said. “Their voice is important.” When she served until recently as board chair, she said, she routinely asked the student members how they would vote on matters before calling the question.

Demonstrators form HSC and New Haven Academy said officials at their schools warned them they could be suspended if they participated in Monday’s rally.

Asked later for comment, New Haven Academy Principal Greg Baldwin said his school’s official policy states that the school records absences as unexcused without a note or phone call from a parent. If a student leaves school during the day without permission, the school contacts a parent and requires time to be made up with a teacher. No one walked out of the school Monday, Baldwin said.

HSC “Facilitator” (aka Principal) Matthew Brown said his staff explained to students on Friday that they “don’t support students skipping school regardless of the reason,” and that the school district’s code contains “a range of possibilities” for consequences. He added that HSC has “tons of outlets for students to pursue” social justice and social change.

The school district released this statement from Superintendent Reggie Mayo:

“New Haven Public Schools is committed to finding avenues for the expression of student voice. New Haven Public Schools also has the responsibility of the safety of students and staff and doing our best to supervise the school day and student activities in a manner which is safe and is not disruptive to school operations and the school day. Student walk outs create a complex set of concerns relative to the safety of students. Working with our students and student organizations as well as School leaders and teachers to find creative outlets for student voice on critical subjects and getting their active engagement on issues that affect them is a part of their overall education. Having an open dialogue on these issues is critical. Just as critical is attendance at school and following school rules and schedules which are designed to allow every student to be educated to their fullest potential. Unauthorized absences during the school day or leaving school during the school day without permission and a safety plan is disruptive. Such actions are subject to review and the imposition of appropriate corrective action at the school or district level, including suspensions if circumstances warrant discipline.”

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posted by: GroveStreet on April 3, 2017  1:40pm

No, 16-year-olds shouldn’t have any say over how $420 million should be spent annually. What they should do is get with parents, show up at board meetings and demand better from your board and the piss-poor unions that represent teachers.

Get it together, kids. You have some power if you are wise enough to understand it. Screaming at the Green with other hangers on doesn’t do a damned thing. Pick up a phone and talk to those in charge. March on Meadow Street. Too many of you are just looking for attention without a shred of commitment.

posted by: Wilton Davis on April 3, 2017  2:21pm

Instead of being a naysayer maybe you can offer some constructive criticism and guidance to show them the proper way. Change begins with one step this is their first step,get off their backs and do not be a keyboard Warrior

posted by: recruiter15 on April 3, 2017  2:53pm

Can someone answer me why protesters are allowed to block the streets and disrupt traffic.  From reading the article it sounds like the Police blocked the roads.  Did they get a permit to do this?  It also appears that the accident mentioned in this article was a result of this so is the City or NHPD going to pay for the damages since they allowed this?  I am all for protests and have taken part in protests however we never were able to block roads and disrupt traffic.  I am just curious why this is now a normal part of protests and why it is allowed to continue.  It seems to me it could endanger drivers and the protesters not to mention the frustration the drivers are experiencing by these protestors.  I would think it is against the law to block roads and disrupt traffic.

[Paul: The accident occurred on a different block, away from the march route, before the protesters appeared.]

posted by: ElmCityVoice on April 3, 2017  4:44pm

Kudos to this group of high school students. To have organized 100 youth from three or four schools to participate in this action shows a maturity and inclusiveness that adults often ignore. As Americans begin to experience the shutdown of free speech in our country, this group of students proves the power of organizing and standing up for reasonable demands stills sends a message. Again, congratulations to our young people!

posted by: FaithandWorks on April 3, 2017  5:02pm

In a city with a still too high drop out rate and a laundry list of negative behaviors that many young people engage in, I am proud of the students involved in the protest. I know a fair precentage of the scholars who participated and they are all excellent students who are frustrated with the state of this nation. I commend them for collaborating (there were mostly seniors representative from all NHP Schools). Although I also struggle with the intended outcomes from the array of protests that have occurred recently, it is important that we encourage our young people to “stand for something”.

posted by: GroveStreet on April 3, 2017  5:57pm

Wilton. Change does not begin with an inarticulate protest. Change happens when people organize and mobilize with an intellectual approach to understand the issues and how to achieve a goal.

Walking out of school and posing for photos? Not much happening with that lame act.

Here’s something constructive: Read about the young leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Understand the courage and the will to see it through.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on April 3, 2017  6:04pm

GroveStreet, as an undergraduate I was a voting member of my university’s Senate, its policy-making body. I was also a voting member of the Admissions Policy Committee for the University of Illinois system, which at that time has about 80,000 students. Arguably, I was a bit more mature at that time than the high schoolers on the New Haven Board of Ed. But I doubt that giving these students the vote would harm education in the city. It might even help.

posted by: TheMadcap on April 3, 2017  7:34pm

“Arguably, I was a bit more mature at that time than the high schoolers on the New Haven Board of Ed.”

Maybe, but recent NHI articles have made me think Coral Ortiz may be the most involved and coherent member of the board. Step up your game, adults

posted by: vpaul on April 3, 2017  9:17pm

A pleasure to see the young people alert to the issues that surround them, putting down their cell phones to make themselves heard.

The veiled threats by school administrators shows that the kids are right, that this is the way to bring public attention to their concerns. Those administrators will listen to students like Sheriff Clark listened to the Selma marchers!

posted by: EducateourchildrenNH on April 3, 2017  9:52pm

Some of you must not attend BOE meetings or you are there with rose colored glasses. Young Ms Ortiz has been on the wrong side of most issues. She fearsly supported Gary, one of the kat on the BOE to do so. Now we are stuck with a $5M deficit. She fought tooth and nail to maintain 4 principals at Hillhouse, and was a mouthpiece for those administrators there. “most involved and coherent member of the board”, give me a break.

posted by: GroveStreet on April 4, 2017  12:11am

I am advocating for the adults to step up their game. Students and parents can make a huge difference to make sure that happens. Giving students a vote is ridiculous. We saw that they were cultivated as pawns by the previous superintendent. Not a smart move.

posted by: JohnTulin on April 4, 2017  7:35am

Glad to see young people politically engaged, but the best thing they can do is work hard in school and change the system from the inside.  Incoherent, spontaneous marches don’t do much - educated, visionary people in positions of power do! 

Also, “Cajigas said the students want to see more teachers of color in their classrooms” - how does walking out of school impact the applicant pool that NHPS has to chose from?  You can’t hire people of color if they don’t apply.  Is that the fault of the NHPS or the people of color who are not choosing to become teachers.

posted by: 32knot on April 4, 2017  8:56am

Isn’t there a bill at the state house to raise the age that young people can be charged as adults? is that because the mind of a youngster is not yet mature enough to be held responsible for their actions when in the criminal realm??  Yet we want to give high school students equal voting privileges to spend tax dollars in the BOE budget process and make informed decisions on areas in which they have no experience!

This protest sounds like somebody was looking for an excuse to demonstrate against something and this what they picked. Is this an activity to put on a college application and show how politicaly concerned one is?? a good reason to get out of their responsibilities as students, knowing they could probably beat the consequences?

I can not sympathize with students demonstrating over this topic.

posted by: T-ski1417 on April 4, 2017  10:41am

And why was the BLM there??????

posted by: NewHaven06512 on April 4, 2017  11:37am

Yet, Another unplanned and hence, illegal march in New Haven that the police were forced to scramble to deal with.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 4, 2017  12:09pm

Fully half of the text of this story is words from administrators, including a full paragraph of verbiage from Dr. Mayo. Where are the interviews with the student leaders of this protest? We’ve got the surface—the list of things they are calling for—but no background, rationale, or justification.

Let’s let them talk.

On another note, how is anyone supposed to make sense of sentences like this? <blockquote>New Haven Public Schools also has the responsibility of the safety of students and staff and doing our best to supervise the school day and student activities in a manner which is safe and is not disruptive to school operations and the school day.</i> Clearly, the end has forgotten the beginning. If this is the kind of “voice” which “New Haven Public Schools is committed to finding avenues for the expression of” maybe it’s better than some of these students take a few hours off.

posted by: mailuser1221 on April 4, 2017  12:48pm

The passing of QUALIFIED and CERTIFIED teachers is controller at the State level, after an undergraduate degree has been achieved.  Protesting anywhere else than here is futile

New Haven will probably relax the credentials for certified teachers for political reasons, no doubt about that.  In that sense New Haven will react locally, to the detriment of all.

Let’s be careful that hospitals don’t also soon follow suit - hiring by political quota, not skill with the scalpel.

posted by: New Haven Nuisance on April 4, 2017  1:04pm

For anyone who thinks that high school students “shouldn’t have any say over how $420 million should be spent annually” did you take into consideration that these students are the ones most directly affected by how this money is spent and therefore have the greatest insight into how it can be spent more effectively?

posted by: vpaul on April 4, 2017  2:45pm

Those of you that thinks the student protests are futile should ask yourselves why, then, the administrators are so threatened that they, in turn, have to threaten their students with disciplinary action. These young folks are hitting a nerve and in a positive, adult way. And very sophisticated on the issues. Way to go, kids! I, for one, am proud of you!

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on April 4, 2017  2:48pm

@New Haven Nuisance
Yes, we’re all aware that they are directly impacted by how the money is spent. But they’re also in high school, so they’re not exactly qualified to be casting votes on a multi-hundred-million dollar budget. It’s not a civics class, it’s real. Their presence on the board should be to provide a student voice and perspective that the voting members of the board SHOULD take strongly into account.
The dog is the one directly impacted by the dog food, but I’m not putting her in charge of the meal planning.

However, I applaud them for taking these issues seriously. But another street-blocking protest march? I’m not sure who it’s supposed to convince.

posted by: TheMadcap on April 4, 2017  3:44pm

“But they’re also in high school, so they’re not exactly qualified to be casting votes on a multi-hundred-million dollar budget. “

I mean there are high schoolers who can vote in elections, not just 18 year olds but 17 year olds can vote in primaries if they will be 18 on election day.

posted by: New Haven Nuisance on April 4, 2017  3:58pm


Moving past the fact that in your comment you equated our city’s young people with dogs (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time that you do not mean your statement in the way in which it reads), can you please answer the following. What qualifications are met by the voting members of our city’s board of education? Are they qualified as trained economists, budget analysts, how about even masters degree holders in education? Or are board members members of our community who have met the qualification of having received the requisite number of votes from our community to hold the seat which they hold?

Unless you propose we change the requirements for voting members of our board of education to ensure that they meet some sort of minimum qualification other than age then young Ms. Ortiz’s and young Mr. Spell’s very well-informed and directly lived perspectives are as valid as those of the perspectives of any other voting member of the board.

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on April 4, 2017  5:02pm

@New Haven Nuisance

OBVIOUSLY I wasn’t equating these students with being dogs. It was an analogy. One that I thought would be the simplest to understand. Does no one get analogies anymore?

Otherwise, you make a fair point, but I’m not sure to what end it’d be a realistic goal.
Should BOE members have relevant qualifications other than just being that-person-who-convinced-people-to-vote-them-in? Yes. But then again, people are elected because they are able to win elections based on their qualifications (or rather, their ability to sell their qualifications to the voters).
My point is that it almost seems common sense to not leave important budgetary decisions hinging on high school age kids who literally have no professional qualifications or real-world experience at all. They should absolutely have a voice with effort to convince board members of how it affects them.

But yeah, on the other side of that, who would know better what it’s like on the ground than someone on the ground. Maybe you can make a case for the honors kids, or the ones at the top of the class who can handle the position in addition to going to school and doing homework, etc. But then there’s the question of whether or not parents want their kids at board meetings for half or most of the night sometimes… plenty of additional responsibility with that too. Not to mention that uh, sometimes trying to debate things with teenagers can be a fool’s errand (could board members take them seriously enough especially if they have similarly aged children at home?). But hey, it’d look great on a resume.

posted by: Latina on April 4, 2017  6:27pm

Your statement about Ms.Ortiz sounds very innacurate. If she is for not having 2 supt at the same time, good for her- she is trying to save money.She seems to make more sense than some adults there and brought up issues like the School for black boys advertising without approval. Yet you complain about 5 million deficit , and the board wants to add an academy for the African American boys. I have been to board meetings and it is nice to see students on that board.
Thanks to these students New Haven district has done better. If snytjing I feel bad for these students who have experienced some rough people on the board.

posted by: wandafaison on April 4, 2017  10:22pm

It takes a village and our students are doing It

posted by: wendy1 on April 5, 2017  7:32am

God bless these kids.  I totally support them.  I am glad they are standing up and asserting their power to try to change their schools for the better.

posted by: jcelrey on April 6, 2017  12:14am

Yet again another example of what is wrong with the culture in NH.  Shouldn’t these students be in school leaning Math, Science, History?  The problem with the school system is it focuses more on social engineering as appose to getting the students to be competitive in the workforce.  But the progressive liberal cesspool that has been the status quo in the city for a generation breed these views of division.  A quality education should be the goal, not the racial background of an educator.  The educators should have cultural/diversity training but the students should to!  For a city that prides it’s self as being open to the “world” by harboring illegal aliens and breaking federal laws, it’s ironic that it applauds what many in the country consider a hate group.  ALL LIVES MATTER!

posted by: Massimo on April 6, 2017  7:03am

They should also protest policies that
>> allow students with egregious behavior to attend school and obstruct the education of others
>>appoint administrators with dubious qualifications and limited intellectual curiosity

posted by: JohnTulin on April 6, 2017  10:24am

Massimo is 1000% correct - as anyone who works in NHSP knows!

posted by: the1king on April 7, 2017  8:49am

What does Trump have to do with this.  If you are complaining about your education you should be complaining it should be towards Harp and Malloy.  Trump has nothing to do with it, stop blaming him for everything.  Maybe Obama should get some blame for the half a trillion dollars missing from hud.  Democrats need to take the blame.