Anna McClain-Sims, an 18-year-old at Borah High, left behind her AP classes in chemistry, calculus and art to stand on the Capitol steps Thursday to fight for what she fears is an attack on public education in America.
“I do take the hardest classes and I do care very much about being a good student, but this is for the future of our education,” said McClain-Sims, a straight-A student.
She was joined by more than 500 other students, many of them high schoolers who walked out of classes to oppose Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s secretary of education.
For more than an hour, the students stood at the Statehouse entrance and chanted slogans such as “This is what democracy looks like.” They also called for DeVos to be gone from the U.S. Department of Education.
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“As a public school student, I feel responsible to come out and show the disdain for a secretary of education who has never been in a public school,” said Liam Murray-Dumond, 17, from Boise High School. “(She) plans to have taxpayer money go to private, for-profit charter schools and Catholic schools, and I just don’t think that’s what our money should be going towards.”
We want our education system to be public and not private so that everyone can go to school and not just the privileged people
Michael Aspittle, 16, Boise High School student
DeVos, an advocate for charter schools and vouchers for private education, has faced criticism for her lack of knowledge about public schools and her lack of understanding about federal laws regarding special education students.
Boise and West Ada school districts didn’t have a good estimate for exactly how many students walked out of high school Thursday to join the protests. Timberline and Borah High School reported a “handful” of students who left, said Dan Hollar, Boise school district spokesman.
High school absences Thursday in Boise School District totaled 738, which was actually lower than the 902 absent the Thursday before. The district has been dealing with a flu outbreak that has contributed to absences, Hollar said.
Students who left with parent’s permission could expect to receive an unexcused absence. Those who left without permission could face punishment such as in-school suspension or attending Saturday school.
The rally was the latest organizing effort by a pair of Boise high school students, Colette Raptosh, 16, and Nora Harren, 17, who got active after Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. They helped put together a post-inauguration women’s march in Boise that drew nearly 5,000 people on Jan. 21.
“Students are ready to put themselves out there and get themselves involved,” Harren said Thursday. “The government represents them, so it is exciting stuff.”