Word of a walkout reached Borah High School via Facebook posts and text messages.
Twenty minutes later, Borah students had printed fliers, and about 100 were gathered in front of the school to protest state schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s education-reform proposals.
“It showed that the students actually care,” said Borah senior Jocelyn Hersom. “It’s very important that we did that. It showed everyone, especially in the Legislature that thought they could just pass it without us fighting it at all, that we do care and we do have a voice.”
A voice that spread quickly – and proved to be plenty disruptive. Since then, the largest piece of Luna’s “Students Come First” reform has fallen into legislative limbo.
Three eastern Idaho students created a Statewide Idaho School Walk Out Facebook event page and spread the word by inviting nearly 7,000 people to “walk out of class and collaborate in a designated area at their school and gather to protest against Luna’s education proposals.”
Luna has proposed an overhaul of the public education system, including limiting teacher contracts, implementing a pay-for-performance plan and increasing technology in the classroom with laptop computers and online classes. He would pay for it by increasing class size and eliminating 770 teaching positions.
Students from – at least – Boise, Kuna, Nampa, Meridian, Clark County, Pocatello, Wood River and American Falls walked out of class, posting messages of support, photos and videos to the Facebook page.
“A lot of people are here to make a difference,” said Boise High senior Mackenzie Platt during a protest at the Capitol. “I hope people listen.”
There was no way lawmakers – or Luna, for that matter – did not hear Platt and Co. A group of students, mostly from nearby Boise High, took up residence at the Statehouse on the morning of March 1. Their numbers swelled to more than 150 around lunch, and their efforts increased accordingly.
The students marched around downtown holding signs that read, “Stop ruining education, get rid of Luna’s legislation,” and “Laptops can’t hand me a diploma.” Then they marched to the lawn outside Luna’s offices, chanting “Kill the bill” and “Show your face.” When Luna did not appear and protest leaders were denied a meeting, the students returned to the Capitol.
There they chanted “Kill the bill” so loudly that it was heard throughout the building. Boise Police Department and Idaho State Police officers were called in to usher the chanting students out of the Capitol.
“It was just getting a little out of hand,” Idaho State Police Capt. Brian Zimmerman said. “… They can be anywhere they want in this public building, they just have to be a little bit more civil.”