Dramatic student walk-out on May Day

By Monica Moorehead

LeiLani Dowell of FIST<br>and Latoya Deterville of<br>Clara Barton High School.
LeiLani Dowell of FIST
and Latoya Deterville of
Clara Barton High School.
WW photo: Monica Moorehead

At the May Day march and rally in New York City on May 1, among the thousands of people who participated were a significant number of young, energetic people of all nationalities. Among this number was Latoya Deterville, a 15-year-old African-American student from Clara Barton High School, located in Brooklyn. The school is populated by more than 2,200 students and is rumored to be closing its doors permanently in the not-too-distant future.

Deterville had received a leaflet calling for student walkouts on May Day and was motivated to organize one at her school. When asked why she felt a walkout was necessary at her school on May Day, Deterville told WW: “I had helped organize a Student-Activist Council at my school to discuss the Sean Bell case, Darfur, budget cuts in education and how all of these issues affect us. The Council also put together a petition about making changes in our lunchroom, and was told by the administration that we couldn’t do that. We are not allowed to protest. We are not allowed to do anything. Some of the teachers are upset with how we are treated.”

WW photo: John Catalinotto

Deterville and other students wrote a flyer calling for students to walk out of school during the sixth bell, or noon, and to come to Union Square on May Day for the demonstration. The school administration told them that it would be “illegal” for them to walk out when school was still in session and that those who did walk out would face suspension.

Deterville reported that the school principal stationed security guards at every exit of the school to discourage students from leaving at noon. But the students went to “plan B” to accomplish their goal. “Once we saw that the doors were surrounded by security during the sixth bell, some of us gathered together to organize before the seventh bell, which is 1 p.m. Once the seventh bell rang, about 50-60 of us ran out of the building, catching the security off guard. A friend of mine sneaked through the parking lot. We felt this strongly about being at May Day.”

Larry Holmes, who spoke on behalf of the Troops Out Now Coalition at the May Day rally, told Deterville that more student activists like her are needed and that her determination will certainly inspire many others to get involved in the struggle.

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