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Maryland Students Suspended For Trying To Organize Walkout

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Suspended Northwestern High School Junior Shane James defends his actions at a community meeting for parents, students and administrators. on March 12 in Hyattsville, Md. 
WAMU Photo/Elliott Francis
Suspended Northwestern High School Junior Shane James defends his actions at a community meeting for parents, students and administrators. on March 12 in Hyattsville, Md. 

In Maryland, students at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville are trying to resolve a conflict which left 3-students suspended for trying to organize a demonstration.

The students about 400 in all were set to protest conditions at the school and certain policy they feel is unfair. The complaints ranged from unclean bathrooms with broken fixtures to the lack of teacher pay raises.  When Principal Edward Batenga discovered, by way of Twitter, that students were planning a walkout last week, he identified three of the organizers and hit them with a 5-day suspension.

 Shane James is one of the suspended organizers. James has maintained 4.5 GPA for the last two quarters and is puzzled why he’s being punished for what he believes is a use of his 1st amendment rights

“The same man who suspended me was the same man who a week prior shook my hand and lauded me for my activism and for my GPA, so it’s a bit strange how that was juxtaposed,” said James.

Batenga who suppressed the attempted walkout, says the suspension was not a response to students standing up for a cause.

“The reason students were suspended is for inciting this disturbance during the school day because it caused havoc and chaos in the school building with people trying to walk out,” said Batenga.

At meeting held at the high school last evening attended by, parents, students and concerned community residents, school administrators tried to present a forum for the student’s complaints. Many in the crowd demanded the principal lift the suspensions.

The students have the right to appeal the suspensions which could hurt their chance for getting into college. William Alvarado was also suspended but intends to wear it as a badge of honor if he can’t get the order lifted.

“I want to tell people … It’s your freedom of speech and there are other kids getting suspended for stabbings  and stuff, and me, I’m getting suspended for the First Amendment.”

Students plan to meet again with Principal Batenga to resolve the issues that prompted their actions.

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