Students around the country have clearly been paying attention in civics class.
This past year saw a number of instances where high school students refused to leave political activism to the adults. Whether or not you agree with their views, teens around the country showed this year that they were able to stand up to authority and protest peacefully and respectfully.
Below, we've compiled a list of five times in 2014 when teens made their voices heard in a meaningful way.
1. Protests for Michael Brown
Demonstrations broke out around the country in November after a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer. These protests were not limited to citizens of voting age. Teens walked out of class around the country to peacefully show their objection to the grand jury's decision, and many conducted "die-ins" in honor of Brown.
Below are photos of some of the protests.
— Aarón Martel (@aaronmartel) December 1, 2014
Manhattan, New York
— Ted Alexandro (@tedalexandro) December 1, 2014
St. Louis, Missouri
— bluecheddar1 (@bluecheddar1) December 1, 2014
— The Globe (@chsglobe) December 1, 2014
2. Protests for Philadelphia teachers
In early October, the School Reform Commission (SRC) that governs the Philadelphia school district voted to cancel its labor contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the local teachers' union. The cancellation of this contract means teachers may have to start paying their own health care premiums, which could cost up to $140 a month.
The SRC canceled the contract in order to save the district money -- the five-member board of state appointees has said that the move will help funnel about $44 million back into the district’s classrooms. This isn't an insignificant point, since the district has long been in a state of financial distress and has had to undergo massive layoffs and close dozens of schools in recent years.
Still, some students disagreed with the SRC’s decision, and walked out of class to show support for their teachers. Below are some images from the students' rally:
— Jacob Morgan Howie (@realjakehowie) October 8, 2014
— Anna Orso (@anna_orso) October 8, 2014
3. Norman High School students demand sexual assault reform
This past year, multiple students at Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma, claimed to have been raped by a particular classmate. The alleged victims also said they were subsequently bullied, and that the school’s administration was less than supportive of their plight.
In support of the alleged victims, students organized a protest outside the school in late November that drew up to 1,000 participants. The organizers presented the district with a list of demands, including that the “school must fully accommodate the educational needs of the victims and take all necessary steps to ensure the victims feel welcome and safe at all times on school grounds” and that the “school shall prioritize the immediate implementation of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and bullying prevention education for students and faculty," according to local outlet KOKH-TV.
The school principal commended the protestors and said in a statement that "we continue to be very concerned about victims of sexual assault and are committed to doing what we can to support them and ensuring our schools provide a safe, secure and supportive environment for our students." Below are pictures of the event:
— Danielle Dunn (@DanielleDunnOKC) November 24, 2014
— Rachel Calderon (@RachelTRAFFIC) November 24, 2014
4. Colorado students boycott standardized tests
In November, hundreds of seniors from Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, refused to take the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS), a statewide test on social studies and science. Instead, they protested outside their school and collected food to donate to charity.
A vast majority of the school’s seniors refused to take the test, with only nine out of 530 seniors ultimately participating.
Protesting Fairview High seniors said the test included material that not all students had covered in class, and said the exam was an unneeded source of stress in students' lives.
"The amount of testing and time away from teaching and learning is a shared concern among our teaching staff, principals and community," Principal Bruce Messinger told HuffPost at the time.
Below are some photos of the students' rally:
— FHS Royal Banner (@FHSRoyalBanner) November 13, 2014
— Chalkbeat Colorado (@ChalkbeatCO) November 13, 2014
5. Colorado students protest proposal to whitewash history classes
For two weeks in September, hundreds of Denver-area students left class to protest a proposal from their school board.
The students, from schools all around Jefferson County School District, were protesting a proposal put forward by conservative school board member Julie Williams. The proposal called for a review of Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) curriculum material to make sure the courses promoted patriotism and did not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." An APUSH framework released by the College Board, which oversees the Advanced Placement program, had recently been the subject of much controversy among conservatives who said the framework was overly critical of American history. Williams' proposal might have modified the way this material was presented in classrooms, something many students vehemently opposed.
"APUSH rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations," Williams said in a statement about her proposal at the time. "It has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American history for generations."
In response, students said the school board was effectively trying to censor teachers and promote a bowdlerized version of history. Students' efforts proved somewhat successful: Ultimately, the school board backed away from the proposal to review the APUSH curriculum with the aim of promoting patriotism. But the board voted to expand existing curriculum review committees that could still look at the course material -- a development that led to further student protests in October, according to the Associated Press.
"This isn't over," Ashlyn Maher, a district senior who helped organize the protests, told the Associated Press at the time. "We are going to fight until we see some results."
Below are some photos of the demonstrations:
— Nic Garcia (@nicgarcia) September 24, 2014
— Larry Ryckman (@larryryckman) September 24, 2014
— Nic Garcia (@nicgarcia) September 24, 2014