On Friday, April 28, Niles North student-activists Jade Hansen, Eli Gaytan, and Jayson Sawyer led hundreds of students in a peaceful walkout protest during sixth period in the name of equity.
The walkout was sparked by the publication of a private Snapchat of a solid-black BB gun with a racist caption. It was rumored the white student in question received a “slap on the wrist” punishment (these rumors were later reported as inaccurate by District 219) in contrast with harsh expulsions perceived to be commonly inflicted upon students of color. This raised concerns about the equity employed throughout the disciplinary process.
Students who saw screenshots of the Snapchat were initially concerned with their personal safety.
“When [the Snapchat] was brought to our attention, the first thing we did was call the Skokie Police, who thoroughly investigated the report,” James Edwards, principal, explained.
These obvious and serious safety concerns were further addressed by Edwards in an email to the student body, stating that the “student in question will no longer attend Niles North or any other D219 school.”
This symbol of unity signals to the administration the magnitude to which the student-body demands equity and accountability. “Instead of just grumbling, instead of turning their anger and frustration towards a single student, the students stood up to a policy that seemed so out of whack,” Heather Ingraham, English teacher, said.
“Our protest meant to me, and probably many other Vikings, what it means to be a Viking. It means to unify. . .we may all come in different races, different ethnicities, different genders, just different everything, but at the end of the day, we are all one. And that one thing, is just people,” Jayson Sawyer, senior co-leader of the walkout, stated.
“Security concerns arise whenever you have a large group of students moving from one end of a building to another. If we knew about the walkout we could’ve helped coordinate to ensure the safety of the building,” Edwards said.
Completely organized the period before its execution, the protest came from a place of frustration within our student body. That morning, all Niles North students were encouraged to participate in an administration-run event in honor of Stand Against Racism Day. This unintentionally created further frustrations within the student-body who felt as if the Stand Against Racism Day event was an artificial and ineffective means of addressing inequity. These frustrations found their outlet in the organic, student-led walkout.
“It was a way to show administration the power of the students,” Jade Hansen, junior co-organizer of the walkout, stated. “It was a unifier of the student body,” Hanson added.
The student body came together as a watchdog to show injustice and inequity will not be tolerated throughout the halls of Niles North. As hundreds of students exclaimed along Lawler Avenue sixth period, “we are one.”
Featured image courtesy of Ihab Hachami