Ferguson Schools Let Students Leave to Protest in Streets--Without Notifying Parents

Brittany M. Hughes | December 2, 2014 | 8:42pm EST
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Protestes on a street in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(CNSNews.com) - Hundreds of students were allowed to leave several high schools in Ferguson, Mo., Tuesday morning to protest in the city’s streets--a decision the school district made without notifying the children’s parents before or during the protest.

Teachers and administrators also walked with the students as they blocked traffic and clogged congested intersections.

The students, primarily from McCluer, McCluer North and McCluer South-Berkley high schools, crowded into the streets of Ferguson in the early morning hours and stretching into the afternoon, an extenuation of months of protests that have taken place in the St. Louis suburb following the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, on August 9.

With chants of “hands up, don’t shoot” and “pissed off, fight back,” the young protesters marched past rows of buildings boarded up with hand-painted plywood, the scars from riots and looting that occurred after a grand jury last Monday decided not to bring any charges against Wilson in Brown’s death.

Ferguson police walked and drove SUVs beside the teenagers, trying to keep the group from spilling into the street and obstructing traffic. At several points, traffic was halted as groups of students weaved through cars or stood in intersections to block the passage of vehicles.

Jana Shortt, the communications director for Ferguson Public Schools, said the protests were “entirely student-led,” and parents were not notified beforehand.

“It was not that they were released, necessarily, it’s more that the district didn’t prevent the students from leaving the campus,” she said.

In a phone interview, CNSNews.com asked Shortt: “At no point were parents notified that their kids were out and about, protesting?”

“No…they, well, no. I mean, as the student protest kind of went on, we were responding to that and sending administrators to stay with them,” Shortt responded.

“So the information for parents is going out,” Shortt said. “We, uh, we talked to anybody as they called in, you know, we were sharing that with them. But yeah.”

One mother, who stood by as teenagers marched down the road near her house, said she had just gotten a call from her daughter, who attends one of the participating high schools.

“She called me and said, ‘Mommy, the teachers are letting us out to protest!” the mother recalled. “And I was just thinking, I hadn’t heard anything about that.”

The school district released a letter to students’ families well after the protests had wrapped up, letting them know that their child may have participated. According to the letter, the protests began around 8:15 a.m. when between as many as 600 students walked out of two area high schools.

At around 11:15 a.m., another group of nearly 200 students left a third school.

Although parents were not notified that their children were protesting, the letter did state that local police were notified and “stood by as the students demonstrated.”

“Once we could see that there were, you know, hundreds of students and each school that were leaving the building, our staff, instead of physically trying to stop that large group of students, what we did was school staff, administrators and teachers, accompanied the students on the walk. And then we dispatched transportation, school busses, to go and get those students from where they had ended up,” said Shortt.

Shortt said students were picked up from various places, including a nearby Walgreens, and brought back to school.

Another group of students could be seen leaving a local Dollar General, some with shopping bags in hand.

The letter also stated that “the majority of students who participated in the demonstration re-entered the school” after the protesting.

Despite allowing students to leave campus, sending school officials to accompany the students as they protested, and not notifying parents as demonstrations were taking place, the school district’s letter to Ferguson parents admonishes families to “discuss with your children the risks associated with leaving school grounds where we cannot assure their safety or know their whereabouts.”

"We understand our students’ desire to speak out on the issues raised by recent events in the city of Ferguson, and have prepared our principals and teachers to facilitate productive classroom discussions on these topics if needed," the letter continued.  "However, students are not permitted to leave school grounds during the day."

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