Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 14
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
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PHS Students Aggrieved Over Detentions for Walkout

Ellen Gilbert

Between 200 and 250 Princeton High School students were expected to participate in a teach-in and march to the Princeton Regional School Board meeting on Monday to protest the two-day detentions they received as a result of the walkout they staged on March 19 to rally against the war in Iraq. In the end, only three PHS students, accompanied by two students from Rutgers, made an appearance.

When sophomores Aislinn Bauer and Sarita Rosenstock, and freshman Andrew Grunther arrived at the Valley Road Building shortly after the board’s special meeting to vote on the adoption of a K-5 mathematics program had begun, Superintendent Judy Wilson gave them the floor. The students referred to an online petition, “Defend the Princeton H.S. Walkout Students” which states their case and had accumulated over 360 signatures, many from college campuses across the nation.

Ms. Rosenstock noted that PHS Principal Gary Snyder had told them a week prior to the walkout that they would not receive detentions. Then, after being complimented on their conduct during the walkout, they received two days of detention. “We should be encouraged to discuss issues that are happening in our world,” she said, noting that a similar walkout at the high school several years ago did not result in detentions for the participants.

Mr. Grunther recalled that only a month ago students were required to miss three periods of class just to hear a jazz band. “The point of education is to discuss the issues facing the world today,” said Ms. Bauer, who described the positive feedback they had received from other students as a result of the speeches and handouts at the event.

Agreeing that the students had “handled themselves well” at the walkout, Ms. Wilson said that there is “no inclination on anyone’s part to stifle opinion. We want you to be aware of the world.” She added, however, that there were discussions about the consequences beforehand that students “knew about,” and, as a result, they “made a choice.” The apparent inconsistency of there being no detentions after the previous walkout occurred, she said, was because that one took place during a school break.

Several board members expressed their admiration and support for the students. Joshua Leinsdorf noted that the tradition of early dismissal on Wednesdays began in the 1970s to accommodate Vietnam War-related activities. Deciding not to use that time and to walk out of ongoing classes, he said, represented “making a statement,” and they should take their detentions “proudly.”

Ms. Wilson commented that the board “will take this very seriously.” She encouraged the students to participate in the public forum section of the next board meeting on April 22nd. Several adults who attended Monday’s meeting to show their support for the students said that they would return for that meeting as well. “It’s heart-warming to see this energy among young people at the most insane moment in our history,” said Lawrenceville resident Art Kleiner.

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