School-Wide Walkout Highlights Student Voicing Concerns

The+parking+lots+were+used+to+host+the+student+walkout.+Photo+courtesy+of+Hadley+Norris.

Photo By Hadley Norris

The parking lots were used to host the student walkout. Photo courtesy of Hadley Norris.

By Milena Jandreski, Reporter

In January, it was announced over the loudspeakers that there would be a student walkout in protest of the handling of COVID-19 in-person across RRISD districts. Many schools participated in this walkout, though at Westwood in particular, it seemed to not be a success. What does this mean for future organized protests at our school?

Many students, myself included, weren’t aware of the walkout until the day of. It was announced over the intercom that if students wanted to participate in the walkout, they could do so during flex. I sat confused with my friends, wondering what people were even walking out for. As I asked around, it became clear that no one knew its purpose either. I found out through the main office that it was intended to be held in criticism of the lack of enforcement of many COVID-19 rules for in-person learning. Another intent of the protest was to potentially sway the administration into offering an online option for those who felt uncomfortable going to school.

At the time of the walkout, RRISD was under a mask mandate that required students to wear masks, though enforcement wasn’t always effective. The mandate required both students and teachers to wear masks at all times, except for when eating at designated lunch schedules. Despite this, many students no longer wore their masks. It’s unfair to all the other students who feel uncomfortable or have immunocompromised family members.

That same day when I was leaving campus during flex, I walked to my friend’s car to get an early lunch and happened to see the walkout, or lack thereof. There was a sad scene of just six or eight kids standing outside, idle in the freezing cold and wind. While we had probably the smallest turnout, it was reported that the number wasn’t particularly large at other schools either. Additionally, almost the whole parking lot was blocked off for the protest, with only six kids standing in it. It was very disheartening, and the lack of preparation was clear.

The topic being addressed was a highly disputed issue, however, many students did not know about the walkout. If more had known, then there would likely have been a more substantial turnout. There was no schoolwide email, no poster, and nothing in the week leading up to the event to notify students of the opportunity to protest. It’s unfortunate that the school didn’t help spread awareness of the event and that the students on campus didn’t help to promote the cause. However, there were reasons for the lack of promotion for the event such as the planning starting at other schools and that the administration likely didn’t want to promote skipping class. It makes me wonder what that means for the next time there are district-wide protests. Whose responsibility is it to let students know of opportunities to make change?

It’s been several weeks since the event and nothing has changed within the administration regarding COVID-19 and online learning. It begs the question of whether it’s the fault of the small-scale protest or if they simply wouldn’t have recognized students’ concerns. There are lots of important causes that students could potentially advocate for, yet I wonder if the school would even listen. I can only hope that the next time we have a protest, it is advertised more prominently so that students can successfully campaign for the things they find essential.