IN PRINCE GEORGE'S, OUR STUDENTS DID US PROUD. OUR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION LEAVES US ASHAMED

Students in Prince George's, concerned by the racist and repressive rhetoric of Trump supporters, engaged in peaceful protests late last week. The school administration made clumsy, ill-advised efforts to suppress their legitimate expression of opinion and should be called out for it.

Students in Prince George’s County Public Schools last Friday engaged in peaceful mass protests against the election of Donald Trump, despite poorly managed attempts by school officials to inhibit the students’ right to free expression.

Hundreds of students at PGCPS high schools – including Parkdale, Suitland, Wise and Northwestern – left their schools peacefully to engage in public protest. In at least one case where students were illegally and dangerously restrained within their school buildings they engaged in peaceful protests in place.

Progressive Maryland applauds the students’ recognition of a critical time in a polarized nation and taking a stand. The school administration at the top and school by school, on the other hand, should be censured for its craven behavior in the face of student responsibility and initiative.

Before Friday, PGCPS administration attempted to suppress protest activity by their students with a mass robocall to student families invoking the Department of Homeland Security (text below).

High school students in the county had been discussing a walkout during the school day Friday. Students in other jurisdictions in the area had undertaken similar protest activities last week.

Progressive Maryland argues that this robocall from PGCPS amounts to a threat to students’ families, especially those who might have family members with uncertain status in the US either under the already-onorous Obama deportation program or the far more frightening prospect of a Donald J. Trump administration. Mention of both the county police and the school system’s security force also amounts to a threat to free speech.

The Prince George’s Schools system should be rigorously held to account for this threat-heavy attempt to forestall legitimate protest activities among their students, as well as for well-documented attempts to restrict students to their buildings illegally. The students are members of our society who are learning and exercising the full range of citizenship activities and whose future is certainly most threatened by the prospect of a Trump administration that makes good on the incendiary, racist and sexist self-presentation of Trump the candidate and those in his entourage.

Progressive Maryland calls on the school board of Prince George’s County to censure those administrators who may have colluded in this threatening message and subsequent restrictive efforts. Students should be encouraged to exercise the full range of citizenship, not cower in the corner along with their alleged adult supervision. Our students have responded to an emergency while our so-called adults are hiding from reality.

The text of the call to families is below:

It has been brought to our attention that all Prince George’s County Public Schools students have been asked to participate in a mass walkout on Friday, November 18. This demonstration is not sanctioned by Prince George’s County Public Schools. We are concerned that students may place themselves in harm’s way by leaving school grounds unaccompanied.

We have consulted with the Prince George’s Police Department, Department of Homeland Security and PGCPS Security Services. It is our desire to ensure the safety of our students, which is why we urge them to remain in class for the entire day.

Parents, please assist us in ensuring that students remain in school all day and follow PGCPS rules and procedures. Talk to your child about the unintended consequences of their actions. We have also asked all middle and high school principals to meet with their student leaders to discuss ways they can make their voices heard without disrupting the school day.

Our schools will continue to be places of learning where all students feel welcome, safe, and valued. Thank you.